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Jordan Heron - The Vanity Card Series

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How many of you wonder what you would do in a life-or-death situation? Or, more interesting, a life-or-death-for-me-or-someone-else situation...

The news reported today of a 13-year-old boy, caught with his family during the Australia floods. He and a younger brother were trapped in a car as the flash flood arrived. When a rescuer arrived, the young boy, Jordan Rice, insisted that his younger brother be saved first. The rescuer grabbed 10-year-old Blake and waded to safety. By the time the rescuer was able to return, Jordan had been washed away.

As is said, there is no greater love, than that you lay down your life for another.

Ok, my situation was so small-scale as to be embarrassing, but I will relate it anyway...

Some years ago, I was sitting in a small office in a large warehouse with about four other colleagues. The office wasn't used much and was rather dusty. We turned on the heat, which probably hadn't been used for months, if not years. Eventaully, as we sat there, the fire alarm went off. Absolutely no one panicked. We all instinctively knew what was going on.

Contrary to all safety rules, we didn't evacuate. We could smell dust burning off the heating vents, and we (correctly) assumed that was the source of the problem. So, we wandered about the small office, seeing if we could pinpoint the issue and fix it. This continued for a short while. Then, what sounded like a very very small explosion.

Having had some fire safety training, I knew what it was. The halon gas system had gone off. Halon is not toxic - it is heavy and inert. It extinguishes fires by sinking to the floor and then building up highter as more gas is expelled from the system, displacing the air and starving the fire of oxygen. As I said, it's not toxic, but if you stay long enough, you, as well as the fire, will suffocate.

I was the furthest one from the door when the gas went off. Although I didn't knock anyone over, I was the first one out the door. I didn't even think - I just moved.

I can rationalize it. Once outside, I made sure everyone else was safe, and the appropriate actions were taken and authorities called. But there's no mistaking it - I saved my own butt. And fast.

I was humbled by that small incident, those years ago, and my instinctively selfish reaction. Today, I am humbled and amazed by Jordan Rice, and the sacrifice he was willing to make. I'm sure he didn't intend to die, but I'm also sure that he knew it was a risk - and he willingly took it.

If ever faced with such a choice, I hope I am able to chose selflessly.

12 January 2011

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