Compare and contrast: Cowardice at Parkland vs. heroism in the deep sea

With the school shooting in Parkland at the top of the agenda, we have a chance to look at how men react in a life-or-death crisis.  The vast majority of Americans have never actually faced death and survived.  We need to ask ourselves: what does real courage look like?

People talk about the fires of Hell.  I would offer the example of two men who have been there, done that, and survived to tell the tale.  One is Mike Williams, an electronics technician aboard the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded and caught fire.  The other is Anthony Gervasio, the chief engineer of the offshore supply vessel Damon B. Bankston, which was alongside as the well began to blow out. 

The nation watched Mike Williams tell his story on 60 Minutes.  Here is the most telling segment of his narrative.  He describes how he got to the point where he thought he was dead after jumping into a pool of burning oil.

He hears a faint voice calling him to "kick, kick, kick.  Do something."

He gets pulled out of the water.  The fast response craft goes forward some more toward more lights in the water, and Williams asks to be taken away from the danger.  Anthony Gervasio tells him there is a life raft yet to be aided, and he drives forward. 

They get a line to the life raft and begin backing out.

The boat begins to go sideways and stops.  There is a painter line still attached to the rig, and people are being dumped out of the life raft.  The rig's owner, TransOcean, has a "no knives" policy.  The survivors cannot cut themselves free.  Fortunately, the owner of the Bankston, Tidewater Inc., does not have a no knives policy.  Gervasio reaches into his pocket and pulls out a knife, which he throws to those in the raft.  They cut themselves free. 

Williams succinctly sums it up: "And then we were rescued."

Anthony Gervasio was awarded the Coast Guard's Gold Lifesaving Medal.  His assistant, Louis Langlois, was awarded the Silver Lifesaving Medal.  Together, they proved that a knife (or a gun, for that matter) is just a tool.  Knives don't kill; people do.  And knives don't save people.  People do.

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