Pirates, Crashes, Disasters Reveal True Heroes

According to Charlie Gasparino, CNBC's on-air editor, who broke the story, the money Thain spent, in part, went for two area rugs ($131,000), two guest chairs ($87,000), a 19th Century credenza ($68,000), four pairs of curtains ($28,000), and a mahogany pedestal table ($25,000). Also reported to be on the list was a trash can for $1,400.

Thain's attorney has since told ABC News' Richard Esposito that Thain has agreed to reimburse the company for those charges.

Despite being the counterweight to such high-profile episodes, Abess said he was was surprised at the attention his gesture had received.

"I'd prefer to live in a world where this is ordinary and didn't need to be mentioned to anybody," Abess told Maggin.

Todd Beamer

Stories of selfless heroism were in no short supply in the days following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Perhaps one of the most inspiring was that of Todd Beamer, 32, who was a passenger on United Flight 93 when it was hijacked.

Together with fellow passengers Jeremy Glick and Mark Bingham, Beamer helped coordinate a last-ditch effort to retake the plane once they learned that it might be used as a missile to destroy yet another American target on the ground. Beamer reportedly was the passenger who was heard uttering the words, "Let's roll," by a telephone operator with whom he had been talking before the passengers presumably stormed the cockpit.

The plan may have succeeded. Of the four flights hijacked by terrorists that day, Flight 93 was the only one that did not crash into a populated target. Tragically, however, the plane did crash, killing all aboard.

Lisa Beamer, the wife of Todd Beamer, told ABC News' "Good Morning America" two months after the crash that she believed the men's primary goal was to save those on the ground -- even if it meant sacrificing their own lives in the process.

"I think they succeeded in their mission to save the people on the ground and were this close to saving themselves," she said.

"In this case, the most altruistic thing they might have been doing was to take the plane down because they knew it was heading somewhere bad that would have gotten more people killed," Raison said.

He added that the ramifications of Beamer's actions -- as well as the actions of other self-sacrificing heroes -- went far beyond the moment in which they were carried out.

"One thing that is really cool about altruistic behavior is that it spreads. It's contagious," Raison said. "So one act can have big ramifications."

And he said the most heartening impact of such sacrifices is that they may say something about the capacity of all people to be heroes.

"The seeds for what these people have done are in all of us," Raison said. "The evolution of this type of behavior is part of what makes us human."

Reports from Russell Goldman, Alice Maggin and Richard Esposito contributed to this story.

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