The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Tragedy deserves respect, cowards don’t

Illustration by Eric Hadley/The Collegian
Illustration by Eric Hadley/The Collegian

Courageous heroes will forever be revered, and their heroic acts are worthy of such remembrance.

Not so is the cowardice act of abandonment, recently displayed by the captain of the doomed ferry Sewol off the coast of South Korea.

In the U.S., first responders are the men and women equipped to handle emergency situations, such as police, fire and rescue squads and paramedics. These are the people who have pledged to put the needs of others ahead of their own and, in some cases, offer to lay down their lives to save others.

In many ways, the duties of a sea captain are the same. Craig Allen, a Coast Guard attorney and commanding officer of the Coast Guard cutter Resolute, wrote in an article that the very first rule of the Merchant Marine Officers’ Handbook is that the captain is the last man to leave the vessel.

Maritime requirements also state the captain is responsible for reporting distress, for salvaging ship and cargo, if possible, and for return of the crew.

Captain Lee Joon-seok met none of these requirements. The Associated Press reported 22 of the 29 members of the ferry’s crew survived the sinking of the Sewol. Eleven crew members, including the captain, have been arrested or held for questioning related to the investigation.

Adding to the shame of desertion, reports have shown the captain was not the first to report the vessel in distress. That first mayday came from a student aboard the ship. That student is among the missing.

As if all of these weren’t enough to condemn the cowardly captain, the AP reports that he gave orders for passengers to stay put rather than boarding the deck and abandoning ship.

The loss of more than 150 souls at the hands of an unprepared captain is a tragic loss and an unfortunate example of a lack of leadership in the face of adversity.

This type of weakness is not the personification of humanity that deserves remembrance. That place is reserved for those like the 12 responders who lost their lives protecting the citizens of West, Texas, when responding to an explosion at a fertilizer plant, the selfless acts of the 9/11 responders on that tragic day in 2001 and even the hometown hero who risked his own life to save the lives of a woman and little girl from drowning in the Trinity River in 2011.

Years from now, when the sinking of the Sewol is remembered, the challenge is to forget the unfavorable acts of the captain and crew and to remember the unsung hero.

Perhaps, the hero is the student who reported the ship’s distress three minutes earlier than the captain and, in doing so, helped save lives.

Donate to The Collegian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tarrant County College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Collegian