I hope to make it clear. I never saved those kids.
What I did was plunge into cold water – someone pushed me, but I was fighting against myself the whole time too – self preservation can be an ugly thing.
And don’t get me started on the columns. After the war, they got the main facts right, and I could even recognise myself in the words, could point to them as you would a brass mirror, and – ptoi! let me add a little spit and get that for you – that’s me and what went down.
But I’m afraid, Jehoshaphat! I’m afraid that time for honest recognition of my achievements is long past.
Now people want a hero – not for everyone, as I tried to be – against the enemy, but someone who’ll stand up against new oppressors – their neighbours.
They want to tell my story so that I was the noble forerunner of the current cause, heroically counter culturally astonishingly far-sighted – able to leap whole prejudices in a single bound (I don’t fancy).
I did not save those kids. What I did was follow the thickness of circumstances, and swim – partly with it and partly against it, choosing currents to follow, guided by my own conscience.
So I obeyed orders (partly) when I did what I did, when I destroyed the enemy’s battle cruiser with a well placed bomb. I was told to, and I obeyed. I’m proud I did, and Saldoneans survived because of me – but they weren’t in the heat of action like I was – who’s to say what they would do.
Don’t make me out to be more than human – I’m not, and you diminish my humanity that way. This way is not to follow – the glowing bronze image of a fearless, flawless, bold pioneer – nobly – that’s not I!
That’s not I. You owe it to me to honour my real legacy. Of men in circumstances, women in circumstances, who overcame by God’s grace. And luck. Always luck.
To sketch and trace a realistic path that our people and our children can actually follow, a realistic road pitted with selfish ambition, selfish motives, selfish desires that sometimes come to deliver heroisms.
Let us remember it, this holy anniversary, as we recall those who fell, us all – the living.