Tag Archives: Frank Delaney

Riley C Howell, age 21 – Rest in Peace

On April 30, Riley Howell charged a gunman in a classroom at University of North Carolina/Charlotte. He was shot point blank. His action undoubtedly saved lives. The toll was two deaths and four injured.

The graduation picture released by Howell’s family is heartbreaking. Howell radiates happy energy. He is described as a fearless athlete who loved a challenge.

Why did he charge the shooter? Did he expect to die? We won’t ever know.

In my reading, I encountered someone who might offer insight. Frank Delaney’s book Simple Courage – A True Story of Peril on the Sea describes an incident that happened in 1951 in the north Atlantic. Delaney recounts that when Captain Kurt Carlsen had safely evacuated all crew and passengers off  his disabled bulk cargo ship Flying Enterprise, a young sailor/radio operator jumped from a tug boat to the foundering ship. Why? The risk was extreme. He didn’t know Carlsen. Possibly Carlsen would have survived without him. Together, for two weeks, they struggled to salvage the crippled ship, finally leaving it just before it sank.

I wonder what we could learn, if it was possible to speak to that radio operator. (Not having the book in my hand, I don’t know what he said, if anything.) If he is living, he would be at least 90 years old. My review of Simple Courage can be found in this blog dated April 22, 2014. (Interestingly, Amazon’s web site includes a review of Simple Courage by Senator John McCain, who found the book “absorbing, thrilling and inspirational…”)

Howell’s loved ones can frame this however they choose, remember him as a hero or regret his split second decision or both. Their lives will never be the same. My heart aches for them.

Before I could even post this, another tragic death has occurred, of a high school student in Colorado, in similar circumstances.

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“Simple Courage – A True Story of Peril on the Sea” by Frank Delaney

On April 16, 2014, the Korean ferry Sewol capsized with 459 passengers on board. Within a few hours, 174 people were rescued. Thereafter, no survivors have been found. The magnitude of this disaster is mind boggling.

The Captain of the Sewol left the ship. He survived, and has been arrested and charged with many counts of dereliction. The debate over whether a captain must stay with his ship rages on.

The contrasting tale of a Captain who stayed with his ship is told in Simple Courage – A True Story of Peril on the Sea by Frank Delaney. Simple Courage is the most gripping piece of non-fiction I ever read!

The SS Flying Enterprise carried both cargo and passengers when it ran into a vicious North Atlantic storm in December of 1951. The Enterprise suffered a cracked hull and its load shifted. Against the odds and at their own peril, other ships came to its aid. Captain Carlsen transferred his passengers and crew to one of these ships. In the wild surf, the ships could not draw close, so the passengers and crew had to plunge into the water and be hauled into life rafts. This operation is described in detail. Each passenger was paired with a crew member, and they jumped holding hands. The only death, from start to finish, was that of a passenger who apparently suffered a heart attack upon contact with the icy water. After assuring everyone else’s safety, the Captain asserted his intention to stay on board while a long-shot salvage was attempted.

Then came a “plot twist” which you would reject in fiction. With no warning and at great risk to his own life, a young sailor jumped from a tug boat to the Enterprise, which the rescuers already considered doomed. The Captain and his companion stayed on the ship through an extended attempt to tow it to port, and left it only shortly before it finally sank from view.

I would tell you to read this book, but in fact it is available in an audio version recorded by the author. Frank Delaney is Irish and is highly regarded as a story teller as well as a writer. I’ve heard that the recorded version is wonderful.

“Eternal Father…hear us as we cry to Thee, for those in peril on the sea.” The Navy Hymn, 1861.