"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." So concludes editor Nancy Gibbs' piece on why this year's honor goes to a group of people who have "the hero's heart," those who freely put themselves at risk in order to fight the virus. Time shares the stories of a few of the many, some in their own words (Kaci Hickox and Dr. Kent Brantly penned their own stories). One nurse's assistant who survived Ebola describes hurt "like they are busting your head with an ax"—though a hurt perhaps second to watching her parents die. "I went out of my mind for about one week," says Salome Karwah. Time ultimately photographed more than 20 Ebola fighters in a dozen locations around the globe for its story.
In Gibbs' piece, she shifts from writing of how the fighters were tested to how we were all tested and, in many ways, failed: On our own soil, a "full freak-out" quickly ensued, with an Ohio school closed because an employee flew on the same plane (not flight) as one of Thomas Eric Duncan's nurses, and with a Maine teacher unable to return to her school for three weeks simply because she attended a conference in Dallas. "The problem with irrational responses is that they can cloud the need for rational ones"—which this honored group of men and women had. This year's runners-up: Ferguson protesters, Vladimir Putin, Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, and Alibaba founder Jack Ma. (Read more Time's Person of the Year stories.)