Grace under Fire – Doing what is Right.

Grace under fire








Three things this week reminded me of the subject of today’s post.

The last one first. I heard on the news today that an 89-year-old woman with no flying experience, safely landed a twin-engine aeroplane after her 81-year-old husband died at the controls. There were no other passengers on the plane to help her.  An incredible achievement.

She was assisted by the pilot of another small plane who flew alongside her and coached her through the landing. An added complication was that one engine ran out of fuel and stopped before she was able to land. That makes it even more remarkable.

Never has the term “Grace under Fire” been so appropriate.

The first reminder was triggered because I had to give a speech at our local Toastmasters club on Monday. The fear of speaking in public and fear of death, are apparently the biggest fears for most people. I had been out of the corporate world and had few opportunities to confront the fear of public speaking for many years, that is why I joined Toastmasters last year. A wonderful environment to turn fear into accomplished performance – another example of “Grace under Fire”

I spoke about my own severe test, not in any way comparable to the brave and composed lady in the plane, but something few North Americans experience.

At the height of the crime wave in South Africa in the early 1990’s when the ANC were trying to make the country ungovernable, Johannesburg and the surrounding area was the armed robbery and vehicle hi-jacking capital of the world. Innocent people were being murdered for their cars or their watches every day. One morning there was a report on the radio of an incident not far from my house, when a BMW owner was shot as he pulled out of his drive and his car taken. That was on my mind throughout the day.

Arriving home that evening, as I parked my car in the garage and was removing my brief case from the boot (trunk) I heard footsteps running towards me. I thought that my turn had come. I drew my pistol, clicked the safety off, took up the slack on the trigger and had the sights lined up on the man before he got within 6 feet of me. It was not a robbery attempt and I had the control not to fire my weapon. He had been assaulting a woman who had recognised my car and was running to wards me for protection, he was trying to stop her reaching me. The police did take the guy away. He had come within a fraction of millimetre of getting shot.

The point was that I did not panic, my military training from 20 years earlier kicked in and I did exactly what was necessary. In other circumstances that action could have saved my life. A lifetime of responsible gun handling and practice allowed me to instantly decide that it was not safe to shoot, because the picture was not as I had expected. There were other players in the picture who would not have been there in a hijack situation, the woman, her child and others trying to help her in the background.

That was my own small experience of “Grace under Fire” – almost literally!

What then makes the difference? Why in some circumstances can we respond calmly and decisively in the face of severe danger or provocation, yet at other times become indecisive and ineffectual in less demanding situations? Why do some of the most courageous actions come from the most unlikely people – the plane incident above for example.

I believe it is a combination of many things, our upbringing, childhood experiences, life experiences, values, experience of adversity, environment and sensitivity to violence or sudden threats. I do think that the move to take responsibility away from individuals as is happening in the West with the expansion of big government is reducing the ability of many people to think and take action for themselves. Political correctness is making people fearful of  saying and doing things that are necessary to defend our individual rights and freedoms.

What do you think? Do you have your own examples of “Grace under Fire”? Leave a comment below.


Peter Wright




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  4 comments for “Grace under Fire – Doing what is Right.

  1. John (Dan) Roberts
    April 10, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    This is a great post, Peter. Interesting story plus your experience and a good lesson to be learned – Dan Roberts

  2. April 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Not at all what I was expecting to read in this article. I thought you would be heading toward a religious conversation and the state of Christianity in today’s world. I was wrong. As a result many memories about standing up for moral and ethical rights against the church body I was part of at one point came rushing back to me. The best knee pain treatment in those days was found within the scope of prayer. We are given 2 dates and a dash. Date #1 is when we are born. Date #2 is when we die. What really matters is what we do with the dash.

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