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Ebola fighters are TIME’s ‘Person of the Year’

Doctors in hazmat suits, nurses in scrubs, scientists in lab coats, aid workers in plain clothes — the people responsible for waging war against the Ebola virus come in many different uniforms across the globe. In 2014, they are all TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year.”

“Not the glittering weapon fights the fight, says the proverb, but rather the hero’s heart,” TIME writer Nancy Gibbs starts. “Maybe this is true in any battle; it is surely true of a war that is waged with bleach and a prayer.”

The Ebola virus created an epidemic in 2014, spreading across borders and taking hundreds of lives. With poor government response plans and organizations unable to keep up with aid, Gibbs writes that it was those with “the hero’s heart” who stood up to confront the virus when the world wasn’t prepared to, even at risk of their own lives.

“Anyone willing to treat Ebola victims ran the risk of becoming one,” the article states.

Which brings us to the hero’s heart. There was little to stop the disease from spreading further. Governments weren’t equipped to respond; the World Health Organization was in denial and snarled in red tape. First responders were accused of crying wolf, even as the danger grew. But the people in the field, the special forces of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the Christian medical-relief workers of Samaritan’s Purse and many others from all over the world fought side by side with local doctors and nurses, ambulance drivers and burial teams.

The article warned that 2014’s events were a test, one that the global health system failed. Yet, the people who fought Ebola were able to act as a barrier to keep the disease at bay.

“The rest of the world can sleep at night because a group of men and women are willing to stand and fight,” the article concludes. “For tireless acts of courage and mercy, for buying the world time to boost its defenses, for risking, for persisting, for sacrificing and saving, the Ebola fighters are TIME’s 2014 Person of the Year.”

While TIME’s Person of the Year is usually given to an individual, this is one of numerous instances where the distinction has been awarded to a group. In 1950, the “American fighting-man” in 1950, “Hungarian freedom fighter” in 1956, “U.S. Scientists” in 1960, “the Inheritor” in 1966, “The Middle Americans” in 1969, “American Women” in 1975, “The Peacemakers” in 1993, “The Whistleblowers” in 2002, “The American Soldier” in 2003, “The Good Samaritans” in 2005, “You” in 2006 and “The Protester” in 2011.