March 4, 2009
Like many people, I have been keeping up with the news story about the two NFL players, Marquis Cooper of the Oakland Raiders and Corey Smith of the Detroit Lions and two of their friends who have been missing since last week. There was a lone survivor, found atop their 24-foot capsized fishing boat holding on for his life. This young man, Nick Schuyler, was rescued by the Coast Guard on Monday. The search for the remaining three men was suspended at sunset on Tuesday. This morning I was reading parts of Nick’s account. Some question his account due to his condition and he may be delusional so soon after the ordeal. His story made my heart sink because it was said that two of the men “just gave up”.
Paraphrasing, Schuyler desribed a scene that started off as a beautiful day for deep sea fishing with some friends to a fiery turn in the weather with powerful gusts of wind and high tidal waves that eventually overturned the boat. None of the men were wearing life jackets at the time. One of the men repeatedly swam under the boat to retrieve life vests and bottled water. All four of the men clung onto the hull of the fishing boat.
After “two to four hours”, hypothermia began to set in the men from the icy waters. Hypothermia sets in when the environment surrounding the human body becomes so frigid that it negates the body’s ability to generate heat. This condition also causes a gradual loss of mental and physical and mental abilities. According to the story, one of the NFL players took off his life vest and let himself drift out to sea. A few hours after this, the second NFL player did the same. Schuyler and the fourth man (Will Bleakley) hung onto the vessel until early Monday morning when Bleakley thought he saw a light in the distance. He decided to swim for help. A life jacket and a cooler was found 16 miles away. Schuyler held on until he was rescued later that same day.
Although it is impossible to know for sure, it is possible to conclude that Cooper and Smith felt a sense of hopelessness and dispair. Maybe they began to believe that they would never be rescued. It has been suggested by others that these two men simply lost the will to live.
Then there was Bleakley. He was the young man who repeated swam underneath the capsized boat for life vests and bottled water. He was also the one who decided to swim in treacherous waters for help rather than remain with the boat that was found by rescuers hours later.
Lastly, there is Nick Schuyler. The one who chose to stayed with the boat and was rescued.
No one knows what goes through the hearts of men when confronted with the very real probability of death. I don’t dare to guess. Some may choose to believe that Cooper and Smith chose to take the easy way out by simply removing their life vests. Some may think that Bleakley was foolish for choosing to swim for help. Others may believe that Nick Schuyler simply got lucky. I choose to think each of these men manned up in his own way.