In modern life, too often we focus on the winners. Everybody always wants to know who finished first in the race, which team won the competition, or how someone made it out of this burning building before the whole thing collapsed in a hellish inferno.
But at the end of the day, it’s the taking part that counts. We can all proudly say that we were there when that office block caught fire for unknown reasons. We all raced for the nearest available exits. We all lost all human dignity in the ugly crush that ensued.
So maybe some of us were more ruthless in our attempts to fight our way past our fellow workers to safety. Maybe some of us clawed just that little bit harder. Maybe someone somehow knew a route that wouldn’t be blocked. But isn’t the important thing to remember that everybody tried their best?
Its sad that journalists love to focus on the one the guy who ‘wins’, asking him all sorts of questions. “What does it feel like to be the only survivor?” “How on earth did you make it down from the 7th floor with no advance warning of the freak blaze?” “Why did you take all those cans of petrol into work last week?”
Wouldn’t it be nice for a change to focus on the people who didn’t make it? But you won’t see any interviews with them – and not just because they’re burnt to a crisp.
Take it from me, they probably have much more interesting stories to tell. What about the secretary in a wheelchair who somehow made it down several flights of stairs without assistance only to discover that the fire exit had been barred from the outside? Or the heroic old man who fought his way back through the crowds to try and call the fire brigade before he realised the phones had been cut? In many ways, their achievements are far more impressive than mine. Yet in the mainstream media, you won’t hear anything about the great things they did. They’re just a footnote to the story.
Our culture is built around an unhealthy obsession with coming first. We should start teaching kids that it’s alright to not quite make the grade, before we risk leaving a whole generation of fire victims feeling that they’ve failed in some way. Not everybody can be the first person to make it out alive of a burning building. In fact,most people can’t make it out at all. And that’s okay.
So while we obsessively focus on those who managed to not be burnt alive in a mass of human flesh, let’s not forget those unsung heroes who turned up and gave it their all. Even if, on this particular day, at this particular time, they didn’t quite make the cut. What matters is that they took part.