In 1980, Charles T. Morecraft was an employee of Exxon Corporation. He was a good employee ­ both in the eyes of his union and in the eyes of his management, but otherwise he was unremarkable. He was just like hundreds of thousands of other blue-collar workers. He never considered himself exceptional. He was “just one of the boys”.

Charlie had more than 15 years experience on the job, and he knew it well. He knew all the rules. He knew all the safety regulations . . . and he knew all the shortcuts around them too. Yes, Charlie was just like all the other seasoned workers at the refinery; he was certain that nothing could go wrong when he was in control. And he was right ….. Except for this one time.