Human beings occupy a special place in this world. That’s because we alone have the ability to selflessly act when another is in danger, even if it means putting ourselves in harm’s way. It is a beautiful trait, one entirely unique to mankind. But on an early spring day 16 years ago, I betrayed my own humanity with an act of extreme cowardice:
I saw Fabio get hit in the face by a goose while riding a roller coaster. And I did nothing.
The day is burned into my memory. It was March 30, 1999, and international modeling superstar Fabio happened to be at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA for a publicity appearance at the opening of its new coaster, Apollo’s Chariot. I found a good spot to stand, thinking that I’d just have the pleasure of watching Fabio ride the exciting, soaring new track, when a Busch Gardens employee asked me if I wanted to ride in the back of Fabio’s car. I was ecstatic. Little did I know how quickly that ecstasy would turn to lifelong regret.
As we raced around the track, with its thrilling dips and dives, I suddenly noticed a large brown object flying right into the path of our cart, which was zooming down a hill at 70 mph. I then realized it was a goose. And it was headed right for Fabio.
What occurred next happened in slow motion: the bird striking the car, then bouncing up into Fabio’s face and exploding into a cloud of viscera on the bridge of his nose. The screams. And I just sat there, glued to my chair by cowardice.
This would have been a tragedy had it happened to anyone, no doubt, but to have it befall Fabio was a catastrophe. And on my watch.
When the car returned to the station, a badly shaken Fabio was smeared in blood, a macabre cocktail of his own and that of the goose. This would have been a tragedy had it happened to anyone, no doubt, but to have it befall Fabio was a catastrophe. And on my watch.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how that goose should have bludgeoned my face, not Fabio’s.
I could have undone my harness, jumped up three rows, and swatted away the feathered goon before it hit Fabio’s face. I could have yelled, “Look out—bird!” I could have been more wary of the devious and depraved nature of birds and warned Fabio not to ride at all.
But I did none of those things. I just sat there and watched.
It’s unclear how this event affected Fabio’s career. Sure, he went on to play minor roles in Zoolander and Bubble Boy, but what if the roller coaster trauma rattled him, causing him to pass on bigger, more ambitious projects? Incredible projects, which the goose, and my shameful inaction, have robbed the world of? That’s a hard pill to swallow.
On that fateful spring day, Fabio was assailed by not one, but two cowardly lower life forms: the goose that struck him across the face, and the human in row three who did nothing to help him. I was an accomplice to treachery. I am no better than that dead bird. And I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life.