Archive for the ‘Great Human Beings’ Category

Great Human Being: Matt Hoffman

It’s been a long time since I put this category to use on my blog, and I’m happy to have a reason tonight to resurrect it.

This evening I bequeath the moniker of “Great Human Being” upon Rowan University football player Matt Hoffman, who sacrificed his entire junior-year season to donate bone stem cells to help save the life of a stranger, Texas cancer patient Warren Sallach, according to the CBS Evening News.

When praised for his decision in a local interview, Hoffman is reputed to have shrugged and replied in a shy tone of voice, “Hey, it’s only a football season. There’ll be others.”

For generosity of spirit, a willingness to undergo physical hardship, and a beautiful sense of perspective, I am proud to declare Rowan University student athlete Matt Hoffman this blog’s newest Great Human Being.

Help John Scalzi support Strange Horizons

awardFor today only (Friday, August 14, 2009), John Scalzi is matching tax-deductible donations (up to $500) made to support the online magazine Strange Horizons.

I’ve donated $100, and even if the $500 limit has been passed, I encourage you all to donate whatever you can afford, for all the wonderful reasons that Scalzi explains on his blog.

For his great generosity and willingness to give back to a publication that supported his early career, and give other new writers the same chance, I am proud to induct John Scalzi into my personal pantheon of Great Human Beings.

ETA: In case anyone thought my induction of John into the Great Human Beings pantheon was premature, his 27-hour “Scalzi Challenge” was even more successful than he had dared to hope. In the words of Strange Horizons editor Susan Marie Groppi —

So up there in Scalzi’s post when he said “What I would say would be an even better outcome, however, is an even larger pile of donations sent along to Strange Horizons, for which my and Krissy’s $500 is just the cherry on the top.” You guys far exceeded any reasonable expectations for that “better outcome.” I’ve just finished doing all the tabulating, and the grand total for the 27-hour Scalzi Challenge period came to $9590. When you add in the matching funds from John and Krissy, that’s just over ten thousand dollars raised.

I don’t think I can possibly express how much this means to Strange Horizons, and to all of our staff members. We’re going to keep the fund drive open for a while longer in case anyone else wants to donate, but we’ve totally met and passed our overall fundraising goal. I’m totally overwhelmed by the generosity all of you have shown, and totally scared for what might happen if Scalzi ever decides to use his powers for evil.

Great Human Being: Staff Sgt. Bartek Bachleda, USAF

I just stumbled across this story on — my apologies to anyone who has already been clubbed over the head with it, but I thought it deserving of recognition.

Airman Spots Jetliner’s Fuel Leak At 35,000 Feet

From the May 15, 2009, article by Chuck Squatriglia:

Staff Sgt. Bartek Bachleda knew something was amiss almost immediately after the jetliner left Chicago.

He’d looked out the window and saw what he thought was a fuel leak. He’d know, because he’s a boom operator with the 909th Air Refueling Station based at Kadena Air Base in Japan. That’s where he was headed. He was one of 300 people aboard the flight bound for Narita.

Sgt. Bachleda took it upon himself to advise the flight attendants, who at first did not believe the situation to be serious. Only after he recorded video of the leak and persuaded them to show it to the aircraft’s captain did the flight officers realize the gravity of the situation: the aircraft was losing 6,000 pounds of fuel per hour.

According to a press release by the U.S. Air Force, the flight (whose airline was not named) was safely diverted to San Francisco before it had a chance to embark on an ocean crossing that, according to the aircraft’s captain, it would not have completed.

For remaining calm in the face of danger, collecting the necessary evidence to alert the flight crew, averting a disaster, and saving the lives of approximately 300 passengers and crew, I am happy to declare United States Air Force Staff Sergeant Bartek Bachleda a Great Human Being.

ETA: As of May 22, the airline in question has been identified by CNN as United Airlines. Also, according to their reporting, the flight crew was already aware of the problem, had no intention of attempting an ocean crossing, and was already discussing options when Bachleda’s report reached the cockpit.

Great Human Being: Chesley B. Sullenberger III

As anyone who owns a radio, television, or Internet-connected computer in the Western hemisphere knows by now, a US Airways passenger jet was forced to make an emergency water-landing in the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey this afternoon, at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET.

The cause of the crash is believed to be an unavoidable midair collision between the jet and a flock of geese. The birds were sucked into the aircraft’s jet turbines, inflicting massive damage to both engines.

With both engines out, the captain, Chesley B. Sullenberger III, 57, maintained control of his aircraft as he advised his passengers to brace for a hard-impact water landing. According to multiple witnesses, he guided his aircraft to a remarkably gentle, nose-up, tail-first touchdown in the river, clear of water traffic.

All 150 passengers and the five crewmembers (including Sullenberger) were able to evacuate the aircraft and be rescued by local waterferries, Coast Guard, and police and fire department rescue vehicles. Captain Sullenberger reportedly walked and inspected the interior of his downed and rapidly flooding aircraft twice to verify that all passengers and crew had been safely evacuated from the plane before he set foot outside the aircraft.

For his quick thinking, calm action, courage, and piloting puissance that prevented an accident from becoming a tragedy, I tip my hat to Captain Sullenberger, and bestow upon him this blog’s second Great Human Being Award.

Great Human Being: Eddie Izzard

This is a few days late, but I was away this weekend, so…

I am pleased to bestow my first Great Human Being Award to actor and comedian Eddie Izzard.

In the Friday, January 2, 2009, final edition of the New York Daily News, on page 22, a story caught my attention. Its headline: “Victim's dose of humor”

In summary, a 28-year-old Londoner named Will Pike suffered grievous injuries during the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. He might be paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. Because of his continued forced convalescence, he was unable to use tickets he had purchased to see Izzard's sold-out live show last month.

Pike's father, Nigel, wrote Izzard a letter asking if the comedian could send his injured son a note to buoy his spirits.

Eddie Izzard visited Will Pike in the hospital and performed his entire 90-minute routine for the injured man, gratis. It was Pike's father who praised Izzard to the Times of London, while Izzard and his people sought no PR for the visit whatsoever.

I've long been a fan of Eddie Izzard's work, both as an actor and as a comedian. Now I can say I am an admirer of the man himself. And so I name him the first recipient of my Great Human Being Award.

Future awards will be given out as a I see fit. They need not go to celebrities. Great acts of kindness, charity, and compassion will be deserving of recognition no matter who performs them. I just wanted to start off 2009 talking about something good.

ETA: Link to the Daily News's story online.