November 23rd marks the ten year anniversary of Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft MMO launch in North America and Europe. To celebrate the occasion they’re allowing all current level 100 subscribers who meet the minimum gear level requirements a chance to experience the thrill of raiding along side 39 other individuals inside in a limited-time celebratory relaunch of their iconic Molten Core instance.
Those that experienced it first hand during “Vanilla” WoW, get a chance to retrace their steps through a level 100 tuned blast from the past, and those that didn’t, like myself, get to experience it for the first time.
And as we prepare to embark on this nostalgic journey, I ask for a moment of your time to acknowledge and remember a long-time friend, fellow gamer and real life hero who would have loved to be here with us.
Far too often gamers like ourselves are portrayed in a negative light, with little recognition given to the good we are capable of. When there’s a school shooting, everyone scrambles to find a possible tie to video game violence. But what about when one of us does something good? What happens when, instead of taking life, we save it, even at the expense of our own?
This is the story of a real life hero.
I first met Raul Hernandez, the oldest brother of three, seven years ago during the Burning Crusade expansion of WoW. Raul had been playing his Night Elf Hunter, Elflink, since the pre-release beta, and though he had many epic stories to share, you had to ask if you wanted to hear them. You see, Raul was not the boastful type. Always wiling to help a glaring noob like myself. Never making me feel like a lesser player. Never asking for anything in return.
Over the years he and I grew closer. Our talks graduated from video games and football to family and plans for the future. Raul was working several jobs, going to school and hoping to start a family of his own some day.
As his 28th birthday approached, he was celebrating with his mother, youngest brother, and girlfriend at an outdoor Hilton Hotel swimming pool in Texas. Raul stepped away momentarily to use the men’s room just as the sun began to go down. When he returned to the pool area he saw his mother and 10 year old brother struggling in the deep end of the pool. Witnesses able to free themselves from the shallow end of the pool said it had became electrocuted when the underwater light turned on. Without hesitation, he dove in to save them. Fighting through the shock that rendered his mother and brother motionless he was able to rescue both before slipping into a coma. Efforts made to revive him were unsuccessful and Raul was pronounced dead a few days later.
The teenager that left Mexico with his family nearly a decade ago hoping for a better life gave his own so the infant that rode his shoulders to salvation could grow up to be a man and the mother who sacrificed so much to raise him on her own could someday find happiness for herself.
In the end, it wasn’t the weapon on his back or the title above his head, it was the heart that beat in his chest that made Raul legendary.
He will be missed, but he will never be forgotten.