- The Washington Times - Friday, May 16, 2003

Noble: Astonishing alpinist, Sir Edmund Hillary.

Fifty years ago this month, a lanky New Zealander and his Sherpa companion climbed into the unknown to become the best-known mountaineers of the century. No one was certain that a person could survive standing atop the 29,035-foot summit of Mount Everest without an unpressurized suit. Many had died while attempting to do so. But five decades ago, Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay shocked the world by ascending to the peak of Everest and returning safely.

Sir Edmund was a surprising hero in many ways. Born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1919, he grew up shy socially and awkward athletically. While he dreamed of adventure, he seemed destined to follow the beekeeping career of his father — especially because he didn’t see his first snow until he was 16 years old, while on a school trip to the mountains.

That first exposure was enough to make him fascinated with climbing, and by the time World War II had started, he had formed what seemed an impossible dream. He told a disbelieving friend, “Some day, I’m going to climb Everest.” And then he went to work, climbing all across New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

The preparation paid off in opportunity. Sir Edmund was chosen to join the British Everest expedition of 1953, and, after one team failed, he and Mr. Norgay were recognized as the strongest pair left. En route to history, they made it over even the last, surprising obstacle that barred their way — the 40-foot icy spur at 28,750 feet, now known as the Hillary Step.

Yet, perhaps the most surprising aspect of Sir Edmund’s life was what he did when he returned. Instead of sleeping in the spotlight, Sir Edmund took off his crampons and rolled up his sleeves for the sake of the Nepalese people. Because of his charity work and through his fundraising (most notably his Himalayan Trust), two hospitals, 12 medical clinics and 30 schools have been established in Nepal.

As he said later, “I was just an enthusiastic mountaineer of modest abilities who was willing to work quite hard and had the necessary imagination and determination. I was just an average bloke.” Perhaps he was, but he became far more. The Nepalese named him “Burra-sahib,” which translates into “Big in stature, big in heart.” That seems about right. For his service and example (not to mention his amazing climb), Sir Edmund Hillary, the astonishing alpinist, is the noble of the week.

Knaves: Killer smuggler, Tyrone Williams.

When authorities opened the door of the semitrailer Mr. Williams had abandoned at a Texas truck stop, a slew of suspected illegal aliens poured out. They were desperate for air — desperate for anything better than the sweltering conditions they had been suffering in for at least a full day.

Almost 20 of them didn’t leave though, even though the door was finally open and the breeze was finally blowing in. In all, 18 people were asphyxiated or overcome by the heat in the deadliest immigrant-smuggling incident in more than 15 years. One of the victims was a child, a boy only about 7 years old.

The illegals had tried to breathe. They had tried to escape. Authorities found several small holes in the insulation on the back door, heart-breaking relics of their desperate attempt to find air. One managed to push a bandanna out the back door, but the driver who saw it had a broken cell phone. Another used his cell phone to call 911, but his pleas for help were in Spanish, and his signal was lost before a translator could be found.

Authorities don’t doubt that Mr. Williams was responsible, although he probably had a couple of accomplices. His signature is on the title of the truck, which had been abandoned. He has been charged with transporting and harboring aliens and conspiracy to do so.

Bob Wallis, a regional director for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, called it a “heinous, heinous crime.” The only person who might disagree is Mr. Williams. He told his wife that he had fled “for his own safety,” because his trailer had been hijacked.

Certainly Mr. Williams should have his day in court. We suggest that the trial be held in Texas. In a tiny courtroom, with space for only Mr. Williams and his accomplices. It should be held on the hottest day of summer, and start as soon as the air conditioner has been switched off.

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