"The positive message, if there is one, is that ordinary people often do act as heroes," Whitbourne said. "it's human tendency."
Lee, who has been charged with abandoning his boat, negligence, causing bodily injury, and violating "seamen's law," has said that he didn't evacuate the ship immediately because passengers may have had an extended wait in cold waters.
"Once the emergency is over, a captain who has failed the ‘hero standard' must feel a very strong need to self-justify -- grounded in shame, guilt, legal vulnerability, etc.," Sandman said "So he/she makes up reasons for having abandoned ship prematurely."
A better approach, he said, would require another kind of courage: "to say instead: 'I always assumed that if I ever faced a deadly emergency I would stay at my post, as duty requires. To my shock and shame, I didn't. I fled. I put my own survival ahead of my passengers' survival. You never know how you will measure up to an awful moment like this until the awful moment arrives. Now I know. I was required to be a hero, and I was a coward instead."