January 29, 2005

The ordinary and the extraordinary.

The L.A. Times has this story (via Drudge) about a survivor of the recent train derailment:
As he lay wedged under a train seat and metal debris, with whatever energy he could summon and a heartbreaking economy of words, he scrawled a farewell in blood on the seat. "I {heart} my kids. I {heart} Leslie," he printed. The blood ink seemed to be running out as he got to the second sentence. ...

Everyone wants to know [who the man is]. L.A. Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said that the department has been inundated with inquiries — "about 700 calls," he said Thursday — from people who simply want to know who he is and how he is doing.

The man does not want his name released:
"I'm a private person," he said in a statement the hospital released for him, "and the message that I wrote was a private message to my wife and my kids because I didn't think I was going to make it."

Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Carlos Calvillo said he understood why even strangers were moved.

"The fact that this guy in this situation had the amount of love he had for his family, and for him to realize 'I'm possibly going to die here' — how could any words explain it?" asked Calvillo, who watched as one of the rescuers speaking before the cameras choked up during his account of John's rescue.
It is very touching to think of a person in this situation writing the message, but it is not because the man has an unusually large amount of love. I think "I love my kids" is exactly what nearly everyone with children would want to write if they had one last chance to write a message before dying. Even if you were also thinking "I'm afraid to die" and "I'm in horrible pain," that isn't what you would choose to write. It is the rock solid ordinariness of the message that ought to touch us.

The extraordinary thing is that this man with an opportunity to be paraded about in the public eye has chosen to remain private.

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