Mark Wahlberg caused a ruckus recently when he claimed history would have been different had he been on the plane from Boston that crashed into the WTC on 9/11. He was supposed to be on one of the two, but rescheduled shortly before. He dreams frequently of his would-be heroism: If he’d been on board, he says, he’d have stormed the cockpit and kicked some terrorist ass.
While I appreciate the sentiment, how can anyone know the circumstances, assess the danger and opportunities, and above all know oneself –one's reactions, the thoughts that would go through your head, the power of fear– enough to judge what he’d do? In these days of easy heroism (local girl picks up baby sister at school!), I wouldn’t discourage the real thing, but how to make such claims hypothetically? Maybe because of your kids’ being on board, or the deal you’re about to close, or your crush on Tanya at your office, you wouldn’t dare anything at all? Most people hope for a best-case outcome. No one on the plane from Boston knew his fate.
(It’s interesting that Wahlberg has that German last name because if he’d been born, say, 90 years ago, we could have counted on him to take Hitler out. Too bad! ... but I’m having fun at his expense.) In his favor, he has since apologized. We all appreciate the sentiment, but we also benefit from hindsight. And the adrenaline of imagination. Still, there’s a lot of injustice out there, so he needn’t be disappointed he missed his chance to right wrongs. Opportunities abound.
Anyway, I heard all this and I'd have put it away in my mental clutter cabinet, except Wahlberg’s outburst coincided with the wreck of the Costa Concorida and its weasely captain. The wreck also brought up comparisons to the Titanic, and my colleague who covers the insurance industry and has a pet interest in cruises, sent me a link about second mate Lightoller, whom I’d never heard of and now ask myself why (boy walks dog for sick mom!). When the Titanic captain told him to get into one of the lifeboats, he refused. Instead when there was nothing left to stand on he dove into the ocean, after having packed as many women and children into the lifeboats as he could. Some think he misunderstood "women & children first" as "women & children only." Still, a hero in my book.