Two unusual stories appear in this week’s Echo because of the sheer coincidence of events, instructive stories that serve as bookends to the human condition. One shows a person at his best, the other, at her worst.
Frank O’Brien, 37, of Tarrytown, N.Y., who moved from County Cork 30 years ago, was awarded a Coast Guard medal last week for risking his life to save others when a water taxi in which he was a passenger capsized in the Hudson River in August 1998. After stablizing his mother, who was also a passenger, O’Brien, a certified scuba diver, dove repeatedly beneath the boat and eventually rescued a woman who was trapped and had lost consciousness. In bestowing the medal, Admiral James Moy, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, said: "I think we often use the word hero these days a little cavalierly. Frank O’Brien truly is one of America’s heroes."
In stark contrast stands Kristen Clougherty, who was sentenced this week to two years of probation and 300 hours of community service after she pled guilty to larceny. Clougherty, readers will recall, feigned cancer in order to bilk compassionate Boston-area residents of more than $30,000. The money was to have been used for her treatment. Instead, she lavished herself with trips, a new car and breast-enlargement surgery.
It can be said that both O’Brien and Clougherty got what they deserved. O’Brien, after all, now stands as a paragon while Clougherty is a pariah. We applaud, of course, the actions of the former. But most of all, we hope the latter gets the help she needs to turn her life around. Perhaps this time a little compassion really is in order.