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.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.