We should all take time out of our lives to celebrate the heroes around us. But we shouldn't just celebrate the heroes. After all, being a hero is nothing unless you have something to contrast it with. You can only truly appreciate the brave captain who risks his own life to say "Women and children first!" when you see how many people in the same situation said ...
#5. "We're Sinking! Quick, Imprison the Passengers!"
With an entire ocean to operate in, you wouldn't think that ships ramming into other ships would be a huge problem, especially in 1848, when there weren't as many people around and boats were carried lazily along by the wind. But the crew of the Ann, who we're thinking weren't very good at being sailors, managed just that. One stormy night, they accidentally rammed their boat into another ship called the Hampton, breaking off a key part of their own boat and crippling it.
"Can you guys believe there's no license required to pilot this giant floating murder palace?"
With more than 100 passengers stuffed below, the crew quickly discovered that there was a problem with the lifeboats on their doomed ship: Basically, there weren't any. The crew, realizing that the passengers on board were in danger, quickly jumped into action by nailing the hold hatches shut so passengers below deck would stay that way.
That might sound heinous, but understand, there's an explanation. See, if the passengers are inside the ship, their screams are less audible. Who wants to listen to a bunch of whiners complaining about their impending death when you're trying to make your escape to the exact same boat you've just recklessly slammed into?
"Sure, some of this is down to shitty seamanship. But your bad attitudes aren't helping."
Right, we didn't mention this part yet. After nailing the Hampton with their bowsprit and then nailing the passengers into their metaphorical coffin, the captain and crew of the Ann split the scene and boarded the Hampton, leaving everyone else on the Ann to fend for themselves. It was really their only option, though. You see, the passengers who had been locked below deck were starting to escape. They were probably pretty mad, too. Getting out of there was really all they could do at that point.
Yes, in case you're wondering, another ship came along and rescued the passengers, who after the fact all seemed awfully happy to testify against the crew that had abandoned them.
"In their defense, we're all pretty darn irritating."
#4. "It's Only an Earthquake, the Children Can Look After Themselves!"
There's a certain unspoken responsibility that comes with being a teacher. That responsibility, of course, is to make sure that those damn kids don't drain you of any hope of living the life you really wanted to live before you settled for being a teacher. They may have already crushed their parents' dreams, but no way are they taking you down with them.
"No offense, but not one of you snot-jockeys is worth dying for."
Fan Meizhong, a high school teacher in China, understands this. When the Sichuan earthquake hit, Fan was in the middle of teaching a class. He immediately did the right thing, telling his students, "Stay calm, it's an earthquake!" His words would have likely had a steadying and calming effect on the class if not for one thing: Fan Meizhong was already running like a track star out of the classroom when he said them, and he wasn't looking back. Respecting authority is an important lesson to impart to your students, but not nearly as important as teaching them that, in a crisis, it's every man for himself.
Battling the rocking ground, Fan soon made it into the middle of the school's soccer field before realizing that he had fucked up terribly. China doesn't exactly encourage their citizens to have kids, but they sure as shit expect you to take care of them if that's your job.
"Callous abandonment of children" isn't a virtue in any country.
To Fan's credit, at least he was honest when pressed for a comment on the matter. When students asked why he had bailed on them, he simply said, "I have a very strong sense of self-preservation. I have never been a brave man and I'm only really concerned about myself." The honestly is certainly a nice sentiment, but if there's one thing those students didn't need Fan Meizhong to teach them, it's that he's a pussy.
In a happy coincidence, the trail of urine he left behind helped contain the fires.
#3. "I'm Sure the Plane Will Be Fine, I'm Outta Here."
On July 4, 1989, NATO radar operators spotted a slow-flying Russian fighter plane approaching the border between East and West Germany. Two American fighters based in the Netherlands were launched to see what was up with the intruder and soon reported that it wasn't an intruder at all. It was just a Russian MiG-23, cruising the skies ... without a pilot.
"Mother Russia's never found pilots overly critical to the whole 'flight' thing."
This was a disastrous situation, not because it meant that poltergeists had finally learned how to use advanced weapons, but because it meant that this speeding hunk of metal full of explosive materials was inevitably going to crash land somewhere. And, it was already flying over a populated part of Belgium. So how in the hell did things even get to this point? Because of a pilot who gave up on the mission way too easily.
That pilot was Colonel Nicolai Skuridin, who you wouldn't think would spook easily, considering that he was 1) a fighter pilot and 2) Russian. But shortly after takeoff, Skuridin's sense of fearlessness was tested when he heard a loud bang accompanied by a loss of speed and a sudden lack of jet-type noises coming from the jet fighter he was piloting.
"Before I start this bad boy up, could you give me a little refresher on like ... how to fly it, and stuff?"
Now, he had a right to be nervous -- he was less than 500 feet above the ground. It might seem counterintuitive, but higher is better. If your fighter plane is going to have this kind of trouble, you're a lot better off having 25,000 feet between you and the ground, since it gives you a lot more time to think through your options. Still, you'd think Skuridin could have stuck out the situation for a few seconds, especially since he had to consider where his roaring machine full of explosives would wind up if he wasn't behind the stick to guide it.
Instead, he ejected, floating safely to the ground. Then he watched as his perfectly fine plane soared off into the distance without him, presumably attempting to complete her mission without that yellow-bellied pilot who had been weighing her down. The noise Skuridin heard was not, in fact, an exploding engine, but an afterburner failing. A startling noise, but in no way fatal to the aircraft. A simple check of the jet's instrument panel would have revealed that the plane was perfectly flyable, and that abandoning it would basically turn it into an unguided missile.
"Attention ghosts: If any of you are floating around up here, we could really use a solid ..."
Plans were made to shoot the zombie aircraft down as soon as it reached the English Channel. Shooting it down sooner was out of the question as, like we said, the plane was flying over Belgium and 1) it doesn't help anybody to have the plane falling in multiple burning pieces rather than one big one and 2) the ground there is covered with Belgians, a nationality that's notoriously susceptible to death by falling airplane debris.
Unfortunately, the MiG didn't have enough gas to make it that far and ran out of fuel over Belgium. The resulting crash killed one person on the ground below, though all things considered, it could have been a hell of a lot worse. You might wonder why planes like this don't have some kind of remote self-destruct, but by now you should know enough about human nature to realize that people would be accidentally hitting that shit all the time.
"Just put the self-destruct button next to the margarita switch. That way no one can miss it."