As for that steamship collusion, also in 1880 involving the Stonington and the Narragansett, many people died or were seriously burned by the resulting fire. One who survived was a man named Charles Guiteau, who believed, writes Millard, "the tragedy was simply further proof that he was one of God's chosen few." He believed he was "chosen by God for a task of tremendous importance." Within a few months, Guiteau assassinated James A Garfield.
Guiteau was insane. Garfield may have been among the most intelligent men to hold the presidency. Have not most of us believed, rationally or not, we were among the chosen few? We can smoke and not get cancer, drive too fast and neither crash nor get stopped by troopers. We will, if not live forever, at least live longer than anyone else. Perhaps this is what enabled young men to charge the D-Day beaches. It may even be what encourages gamblers to bet against the odds.
Yet I cannot help wondering if each one of us is not meant for something better, if we are each not, in some way, special. Perhaps both Garfield and Guiteau really were saved for a reason, and perhaps assassination was not that reason.