Monday, June 9, 2008

Hero - To Be or Not to Be

Day 5: In the news today is a story about a man that died out at sea after helping to save 5 others that were on the same boat,2933,364454,00.html. This safety officer alerted all those on board when their boat started taking on water. He helped them get out of the boat, made sure they had the life jackets (there was only 4 but 6 people on board) but didn't make it off the boat himself prior to it sinking. The 5 others were rescued after 26 hours adrift at sea. This raises several questions in my mind......

1. Could I ever be that selfish?

2. What was going through his mind at the end?

3. How do you live with yourself if you're one of the survivors?

Many of you know that it was Carnival Cruise Lines that brought me to the U.S. of A. and I'd like to share the story of my exit from this fine company!

I had worked with Carnival for about 5 years. I started at 20 and was supposed to only spend 9 months. But being young and crazy (and thinking I know what's best at such a young age) I fell in love and got married to an American. How sweet it was. Living on the high seas, partying all night, working for pennies! A dream come true! The one down side of working for any cruise line is the Mandatory life boat drill that takes place at the beginning of every sailing. It's supposed to be to familiarize the passengers (or cone heads as we called them!) with where they should go in case of an emergency. The truth of the matter is they were all too drunk on Rum Punch to even notice what was going on around them! Anyway, as an employee we are all assigned "stations" to direct these passengers in the right direction. It's tiresome and pointless ( as I'm sure you can all attest to if you've ever seen those videos of ship emergency's) - it's every man for himself at that point. Every 3 months the Coast Guard comes on board and test the crew on their knowledge of the evacuation process etc. This always took place at your home port (Miami, San Juan etc). From about 8am - 12 noon we all stood outside with our life jackets on sweating to death and passing out with hunger (you probably didn't eat breakfast because you were hung over from the night before). Now this might surprise you, as you know my aversion to water (can't swim) but I became a certified seaman! It didn't do me any favors but I would be one of the people the Coast Guard would pick on. Part of the training was practising lowering the Life Boats into the water (while the ship was docked). The Life Boats are generally 12 -14 storeys up and they can be manually lowered by 2 people on a pulley system. This is where I would get bemused...... they would tell crew members, like myself, to get in the life boat so that we could teach the newbie (who didn't speak much English) how to lower the boat. There have been several accidents during this process where one person let the rope go quicker than the other and the boat fell into the water from quite a ways up, hurting everyone inside! So I got to thinking. Why do I need to be in that boat while they practise? it makes no difference what's so ever if the boat is empty or full. they still need to learn the pulley system.

So one day as we were gearing up for ANOTHER Coast Guard drill I decided I would not get in that life boat. I decided to hide in the loo! Unfortunately the Captain got to hear about it.........Everyone knew I had violated some rule and i was "in for it". The first sign there was trouble was when the Captain paged my boss, "casino manager to the bridge". all eyes fell on me. He wasn't the nicest guy and if you were called up to see him it was like facing a mafia boss when you didn't complete a hit! so up she went - I hid in the lunch room acting all blase! After a while my manager came looking for me to tell me I had to go down in the boat by myself or get off the ship! I was devastated!!!!!!!!!! It was April. I couldn't get shipped off to Scotland in April! I only had summer clothes. Upon hearing my dilemma my manager said "Oh no. They only get you as far as Miami. After that you're on your own!" "Hmmm Miami" I thought - I can deal with that! So off I went to my cabin to pack up my belongings. When you live on a ship for so many years you accumulate many creature comforts (TV, VCR, Stereo not to mention clothes). I had to pack everything onto a hand cart and get it off the ship. Oh did I mention we were in Mexico at the time? The captain made me get off the ship (well if I had gone down on the boat he wouldn't have made me but still...) in Cozumel, Mexico. I dragged everything off the gangway while he stood on the bridge watching me.

I made it back to Miami with my dignity intact and a fabulous life ahead of me. You don't realize who trapped you are in a situation until it changes so abruptly!

I have been through many situations since then but still remember those days fondly. but it brings me back to my initial question.....

Could I ever be that selfish?

What if something tragic had happened while I was "supposed" to help people abandon ship? Would instict kick in? Could I put others before me? I really don't think so.

Could you? Have you ever wondered?

That is why my blog today
is dedicated to Roger Stone,
who died under such tragic circumstances.

My heart goes out to his family and friends and I honor him and his actions.

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