World is full of heroes who selflessly help others

World is full of heroes who selflessly help others

The world is a big place and it never stops. Therefore, it is rare that a single news story dominates headlines across the globe, especially when it does not directly impact a large number of people, the way a natural disaster or armed conflict does. Yet the story of 12 boys from a soccer team and their coach trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand has done just that. Across the world, television channels, radio stations and social media platforms broadcast regular updates as a dangerous rescue operation got under way on Sunday. Four boys were rescued successfully, which should be a good sign for the rest of the group and their families. But, until the operation ends, the world will hold its breath and pray that the rest can also be brought home.

This is a “human interest” story with universal appeal. It is a tense drama that is unfolding before our very eyes. It reminds us of just how vulnerable children are, how helpless parents can be and how thin the line between heroism and mere survival can be. This story is not likely to have a villain but certainly does have protagonists that anyone with a heart will root for. It will also have at least one hero.

The full details of the story and how it ends are yet to be written. What we do know at this point is that the soccer team went to this dangerous cave to celebrate a birthday and the boys and their coach became trapped when it flooded. The coach — the only adult among the group — has been criticized for putting his students in harm’s way and has reportedly issued an apology. Reports also suggest the coach might be in the worst physical condition of the group because he gave his water and food to the children.

One questionable decision by the adult in charge of a group of children and a slight deviation from the normal routine has subjected 12 boys between the ages of 11 and 16 to a harrowing experience, as they have been trapped in the dark cave for more than two weeks. This is a nightmare scenario for any parent who entrusts their child to a trained professional. Any parent can’t help but empathize with the parents of these boys.

Stories of survival and triumphs over tragedy have been the subject of countless books and movies; and those where humans overcome natural disasters or harrowing accidents are particularly compelling

Fahad Nazer

Stories of survival and triumphs over tragedy have been the subject of countless books and movies; and those where humans overcome natural disasters or harrowing accidents are particularly compelling. Tragically, not all these stories end well. The Russian submarine Kursk sank in August 2000 and all 118 people on board died. In November 2016, the plane carrying Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense crashed in Columbia, killing 19 players and 25 team officials. Just last week, two Saudi students studying in the United States, Theeb Al-Yami and Jaser Al-Rakah, drowned in a river in Massachusetts while trying to rescue children who were in distress. Those who sacrifice their own lives to save others, often complete strangers, are deservedly called heroes. They carry out the most “human” act there is; coming to the aid of someone in distress.

While these stories often do not have a villain, they often give birth to heroes. For example, pilot Chesley Sullenberger became a household name in the US — and the subject of a Hollywood movie starring Tom Hanks — after he managed to land his commercial airliner on an icy Hudson River in New York City after it hit a flock of geese during takeoff.

The world is full of heroes; people who sacrifice their time, energy and money to help others. Most of these stories go unreported. This is not the fault of the media. Perhaps it is understood by all that we human beings are inherently good and doing good deeds is the norm. So, when tragedies strike, we all band together and do what we can to help, including sending thoughts and prayers.

That is what has happened with the story of the Thai boys and their coach trapped in the flooded cave. The rescue effort so far has included dozens of divers from other countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. President Donald Trump on Sunday noted the participation of the US divers, while a number of notable innovators and tech leaders, including Tesla’s Elon Musk, have offered innovative ideas and equipment to help with the mission. Not to be forgotten, a former Thai Navy SEAL, Saman Gunan, has already claimed his spot among the world’s selfless heroes when he died after taking air tanks to the trapped boys.

There is also no shortage of villains in the world — but, for every one person doing harm, there are many others working tirelessly and often selflessly for the betterment of humankind. For some, the moment to do good comes with little warning and their inner humanity takes over. They are people like Sullenberger, Gunan, Al-Yami and Al-Rakah. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

  • Fahad Nazer is a political consultant to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington and an International Fellow at the National Council on US-Arab Relations. He does not represent or speak on behalf of either organization. Twitter: @fanazer
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