Brave: Ordinary Australians and their Extraordinary Acts of Courage by Mark Whittaker

bravePan Macmillan (2011)

Would you squeeze your way into a shoulder-width, pitch-dark storm water drain to rescue a kid as it flooded? Would you knowingly cop a 20,000 volt electric shock to save a friend and his child? Would you swim out from the beach to rescue a man bitten by a five-metre white pointer, while the shark is still circling him? Would you run into the carnage of a burning Bali nightclub to save people when anyone who can still walk is running the other way?

These are decisions made in a split-second by ordinary people placed in extraordinary circumstances. Yet those decisions can – and usually do – have an impact that lasts a lifetime. So what happens to these ordinary heroes once the newspaper headlines have disappeared and the medal-award ceremony is a distant memory?

I didn’t know the answers to the above questions. As much as I’d like to think I’d act heroically, I suspect that maybe I wouldn’t. Nevertheless, what got me interested in these people wasn’t so much the question of why they did it (the answer to that seemed a uniform – “I didn’t think, it’s just what you do”) but what happened to them afterwards. Every single one of them was fascinating in their own way.

In its blurb, the publisher said that this book “is compelling, complex, heart-breaking and uplifting” and if it is all that, it is so because the people in it are complex, heart-breaking and uplifting. It was an honor to meet them.

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© Mark Whittaker.

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