Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009

Richard Phillips

Like most Americans, I closely followed the gripping story of the Maersk Alabama. The saga of the brave crew fighting off pirates armed with assault rifles read like an espionage thriller, but was all too real. It was a sobering, cautionary tale for sailors all over the world, and an awful ordeal for the crew's families as they awaited news.

I was deeply moved by the remarkable selflessness exhibited by Captain Richard Phillips, 53. To protect his crew, Captain Phillips made a conscious decision to put himself directly in harm's way, knowing full well that he might pay the ultimate price for his decision. Held hostage as a human shield in a small lifeboat with three pirates, he had little to hope for or cling to — except the knowledge that he had done absolutely everything he could to save the lives of the 20 sailors aboard his ship.

My family and I have had the opportunity to think quite a bit about the word hero this year. My wife Lorrie said it best: A hero is a person who makes a conscious decision to run into a burning building, a person who places the safety of others above their own. While sailing in lawless, treacherous waters off the coast of Somalia, Captain Phillips offered himself up as a defenseless hostage in order to free his crew. He is a leader, a human being and, yes, a hero of the highest order. I salute him.

Sullenberger was the captain of US Airways Flight 1549, which landed in the Hudson River in January