Saturday, September 02, 2006

A city that trashes its heroes ...

In the scary days after Hurricane Katrina, Mark Morice spent considerable hours plying the waters in a motor boat he had liberated in order to rescue people. By his own count he rescued over 200 people, some of them who might not have lived otherwise.

He didn't know who owned the boat. He only knew that people were suffering and dying. He admits that given a situation the New Orleans Time-Picayune terms "a sum of all fears atmosphere," he never really thought about getting the boat back to its rightful owner.

The rightful owner is going to court to punish Morice for his actions.

The lawsuit contends that boat owner John M. Lyons Jr. suffered his own distress, in the form of "grief, mental anguish, embarrassment and suffering . . . due to the removal of the boat," as well as its replacement costs.

E. Ronald Mills, Lyons' Metairie lawyer, who filed the suit in 24th Judicial District Court in Jefferson Parish earlier this month, on Friday accused Morice of "hubris."

Technically Morice probably is guilty of a theft, although it could be argued that in the event of a catastrophic emergency on the scale of a Katrina, his non-profit heroic efforts justify the actions he took (he siphoned gasoline from cars in a parking garage too).

Selfless efforts and heroism are to be encouraged, not condemned and punished, if a society is to survive and improve. Lord knows, we need more heroes, and there is no fine print in the Constitution that says they always have to be on the public payroll.

Let's hope some judge has the courage and wisdom to settle this so that the next time there is a Katrina or its like anywhere in the nation, men and women of will not be dis-couraged.