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Every year numbers of lives are lost by panics, which very often are due to the smallest causes, and which might be stopped if only one or two men would keep their heads.

One evening some years ago, on board a ferry-boat in New York harbour, a man who had been catching some crabs thought it would be a good joke to let one of them loose on board the boat. One crab caught hold of the ship's cat and made it squeal, and it jumped into the middle of a crowd of schoolgirls, who at once scattered, screaming. This started a panic among the hundreds of passengers on board. They rushed in every direction, and in a moment the railings broke and eight people fell overboard. Before anything could be done they were swept away by the tide and drowned.

Some years back a man in a town in Russia, on opening his shop in the morning, saw a big black bomb lying on the counter. He rushed out into the street to get away from it, and a policeman seeing him running mistook him for a thief, and when he would not stop he fired at him. The bullet missed him, but hit another man; panic broke out and many lives were lost. After it was over the man went back to his shop and found the bomb still on his counter-but it was not a bomb, it was only a black watermelon!

Some years ago occurred a case of crush and panic among children in a theatre at Barnsley, from no cause at all except overcrowding, and eight children were crushed to death. More lives would certainly have been lost had not two men kept their heads and done the right thing. One man, named Gray, called to a number of the children in a cheery voice to come another way, while the man who was working the show threw a picture on the screen and so diverted the attention of the rest, and prevented a panic. If only one or two people keep their heads and do the right thing on the spur of the moment, they can often calm hundreds of people, and thus save many lives.

When there is a panic among those around you, you may get a sudden desire to do as the others are doing. Perhaps it is to run away, perhaps it is to stand still and cry "Oh!" Well, you should check yourself when you have this feeling. Don't catch the panic, as you see others do-keep your head and think what is the right thing to do, and do it at once.


Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell (Chief Scout, London, UK)

Date of Creation


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to the previous page: Accidents

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