I was captivated last January when a commercial airline pilot managed to safely land an incapacitated jet in the Hudson river saving every single life on board. Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger became an instant sensation. The news media was all over him. And he is very reluctant to use the label they've bestowed upon him ... hero.
I recently read his book, "Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters," in which he wrote about his experiences as a pilot, in particular the day he ended up in the river. He demurs from the title of hero saying heroes are the people who see a burning building and choose to risk their lives in order to save others. He says that he was just doing his job. But he fails to see that he made his choice when he sat down behind the controls of that aircraft and put the fate of more than 150 people in his hands.
The story of Captain Sully stirs strong emotions in me and many others. And it isn't hard to figure out why. We live in a world where we are constantly barraged by the news media. And the news media apparently thinks that the great majority of the news we need to know is bad news.
Wars, murder, crime, corruption, greed, accidents.
It is depressing.
We need good news. But good news doesn't sell as many papers. Good news doesn't pull in the viewers. Good news doesn't win pulitzers. At least, so the popular thinking goes.
And we need heroes. In these bleak times we need to hear about them. We need to know that there are still people out there doing extraordinary things for the benefit of others.
Captain Sully does not want to be known as a hero. What hero does? But I think we can find at least 150 folks that disagree with him.