The wreck of the Costa Concordia off the shores of Giglio Island once again reminds us of how life can change in the blink of eye. One minute passengers were being seated for their first dinner at sea shortly after leaving port. The next minute they were facing the terrors of a listing ship, a mostly dysfunctional crew and fighting for survival.
Life and death issues always seems to bring out the best and worst in people. Many stories are surfacing about heroic passengers and crew members who helped and provided assistance to passengers in dire need of support. What must have seemed like a fairytale dream vacation turned into nightmare as over 4,200 souls were forced to find a way off the ship and reach the nearby shoreline. All the while, the ship’s Captain is rumored to have been ordering dinner in his cabin with a young female unregistered passenger while having the crew announce to the passengers that they are in no danger and that the only problem is an electrical outage.
In contrast to Captain Schettino, think back a few years ago when Capt. Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger safely glided his stricken US Airways jet onto the Hudson River. Sullenberger not only saved the lives of his passengers on that ill-fated flight, but did everything you would want the person in his position to do, including being the last person to step off the jet to safety.
One would have to think that Captain Schettino had risen through the cruise liner ranks as a result of his performance and countless hours of training in both ship operations and safety measures. Unfortunately, there is no true test for bravery under fire or the ability to choose right from wrong in crises situations until one is put there. Both Captain Sullenberger and Captain Schettino were placed in just such a predicament — Sullenberger obviously took his role as captain very seriously placing greater value on the lives he was responsible for than his own.
Another event that surfaced this past weekend concerned a Connecticut police officer who tried in vain to save the life of a dying 10-year-old boy in November — only to be notified by city officials that his heroic effort providing mouth-to-mouth was not part of his job. The city of New Britton sent the officer a letter notifying him that should he contract any illness as a result of his actions, the city would contest any workers compensation claim made. Despite the actions of the city, officer Barbagiovanni, for his part, said he would not hesitate to attempt to save another person's life despite the entire ordeal with the city. In officer Barbagiovanni’s own words “A human wouldn't let another human sit down on the floor and die. I'd definitely do it again.”
The difference between what’s right and what’s wrong seems so straight forward when you’re not the one making the choice. But when placed in the situation forcing a split-second decision it simply comes down to the person you are, respect for yourself and respect for the life of others. Our soldiers, health care personnel, fire and police all face these decisions daily but any of us could find ourselves in a life or death situation we hadn’t prepared for at any moment, just like those on the Costa Concordia. Your life or someone else’s life? What’s the right thing to do and will your urge to choose yourself win out over everything else?
While many of us may never face such a situation, we can only hope and pray that we are never placed in such a position.
At the same time, with this week marking the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it raises the question regarding the rights of the unborn. Since that Supreme Court decision became law our country has been divided in protecting the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Citizens of both political parties must know that the decision to abort more than a million times a year cannot be made easily by those faced with these difficult choices.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.