I read an article that really bothered me. The article is basically about the qualities that make a hero and Arland D. Williams, Jr. Mr. Williams was a passenger on Air Florida Flight 90, a plane that crashed into the Potomac River on January 13, 1982. He was one of a handful of people to survive the initial impact of the crash and hang on to a part of the airplane that was still on the surface while waiting to be rescued. A helicopter came with a rescue ring on a cable and Mr. Williams gave it up three times to others so that they could live. The article finishes up with what amounts to a Darwin Award. No lie, these are the last two lines of the article,
"But as Darwin predicted, there is no Arland Williams IV.
And there never will be."
There was quite a bit of useful information in the article but the way it ended made me feel like it was condemning heroes for being selfish and not thinking of those that loved them. I understand that heroes typically die just trying to help others, and perhaps they are individually foolish. But what about the greater good? What about the lives that were saved because Mr. Williams gave up his turn at the rescue ring three times?
Kelly Duncan was one of the people that received one of Mr. Williams' turns on the rescue ring. As of 2005, she was happily married with three teen-aged children, she said,
"I feel like every day has been a blessing. I have a wonderful life. It sounds crazy to say it, but that accident changed my life for good... God used a bad thing to turn my life around."
I understand the impact of the loss of Mr. Williams on his family. The whole incident was a tragedy and the loss of his life was no less tragic, but he did one of the most kind and generous things that anyone can do for another human being. He gave his life trying to help others.
I am not sure that anyone has the answer as to why a person sacrifices his life for others he does not even know. This is a special quality that should leave us all wondering how we can help another person, not just in a dangerous situation, but in the everyday world. Altruism is something we see very little of in our daily ugliness bombardment of death, destruction, and celebrity gossip that we call news. Yes, the loss of Mr. Williams is bittersweet, but he has given us all a higher standard to live up to.
I am saying all of this not because I have always wanted to be a Superhero, but because this article is wrong in its conclusion. We must have people like Mr. Williams who stand up and do the right thing to help others. This is the example that we all need learn from to become better people so that all of humanity can progress.
I thought about listing heroes from war, or civilian heroes , but these links will have to be enough. After all, I know that I can not really put together a thoroughly researched response to Christopher Mcdougall's article, but I don't think I need to do that to know in my heart that he is wrong. Mr. Williams is not a Darwin Award winner. He is what we should all aspire to be. A hero.