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10 Incredible Acts Of Heroism By Ordinary People

Caroline Coupe


What would you do if you were going about your daily life and saw someone in trouble? Would you act, even if it meant risking your own life? We often wonder if we would have the courage to step in and come to the rescue. These people did, selflessly putting themselves on the line to save others from possible death in the face of danger.

10Temar Boggs And Chris Garcia

Teens Temar Boggs and Chris Garcia were enjoying a summer day in 2013 when they heard that police were outside searching for five-year-old Jocelyn Rojas, who had disappeared from her front yard and had possibly been abducted. Law enforcement and neighbors had been searching for the girl for two hours with no success. The teens, who had been watching television, sprang into action, jumping onto bikes and searching the area. After 45 minutes, they spotted a car whose driver was acting suspiciously, slowly turning up and down the cul-de-sacs.

When they looked more closely, they saw the girl in the front seat and began to chase the car. After 15 minutes, the abductor panicked, let the child out of the vehicle, and drove away. Jocelyn ran to 15-year-old Boggs, saying she wanted her mommy; the teen scooped her up and carried her on his bike, then in his arms, and delivered her to a firefighter. When the public heard what Boggs and Garcia had done, funds were quickly established to raise money for their college education, and their bravery was acknowledged in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.


9Harvey Randolph

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In the fall of 1997, 37-year-old Jill Fitzgerald was out for a morning jog in her Florida neighborhood when she was attacked by a pit bull and her three mixed-breed offspring. Neighbor Harvey Randolph, a 53-year-old plumbing contractor, heard Fitzgerald’s screams and ran outside. Seeing the dogs on top of his neighbor, he tried to help her up, only to have the animals turn on him. Randolph managed to drag Fitzgerald 12 meters (40 ft) into a van parked nearby, with the dogs in pursuit.

Fitzgerald had wounds straight to the bone on her ankle and elbow, bites on her face, and was losing a lot of blood. When paramedics arrived, alerted by neighbors’ calls to 911, they too were targeted by the pit bulls, before the dogs retreated into the woods. Jill Fitzgerald was hospitalized for four days for extensive bite wounds, and Randolph required surgery on his injured elbow. The canine assailants were impounded, and the owner apologized for the attack, vowing to have the dogs put down. Harvey Randolph received a Carnegie Medal in recognition of his bravery.

8Lauren Prezioso

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Photo credit: Trevor Veale

In 2014, Lauren Prezioso was enjoying a day at the beach at Coffs Harbour Creek in New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and her young son. Suddenly, she heard a mother’s cries for help: Her two boys were being swept out to sea. The family had moved to Australia from Africa, and the boys could not swim. Watching the children getting pulled beneath the surface, Prezioso waited, hoping someone would do something. When no one did, she dove into the water herself—despite being eight months pregnant.

She reached the boys and held them up in the water, one in each arm. Though Prezioso was a strong swimmer with lifeguard training, she was unable to keep her head up and swim to shore with the boys in her arms. Just as she was about to go under, a similarly heroic fellow beachgoer pulled them to safety—a man Prezioso contends is the true hero. Just 23 short days after the rescue, Lauren Prezioso gave birth to a healthy daughter, Mila.



7Jeremy Wuitschick And Johnny Wood

It was a normal day for middle school students in the small town of Milton, Washington as they rode the school bus in April 2012, until their driver suddenly lost consciousness and started flailing uncontrollably. Suffering from a suspected heart attack and unable to breathe, substitute driver Ryan Callis let go of the steering wheel, and the bus careened out of control. Almost immediately, 13-year-old Jeremy Wuitschick ran to the front of the bus, grabbed the wheel, and steered to the side of the road, while taking the keys out of the ignition. Fellow seventh grader Johnny Wood, who had recently learned CPR, ran to the incapacitated driver and began chest compressions, while another student called 911.

Sadly, despite Johnny’s efforts, the 43-year-old bus driver did not survive the medical emergency. Thankfully, the quick thinking of Jeremy Wuitschick, who said he was inspired by a superhero book he’d been reading, prevented a larger tragedy by saving the lives of his fellow students.

6Lewis Thomas

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While riding the subway home from work in Philadelphia just before Christmas in 1996, 49-year-old laborer Lewis Thomas saw two young men robbing three 15-year-old boys at gunpoint. They took the teens’ money, their jackets, and even a pair of boots, before pistol-whipping them. Thomas had seen enough. Though no one else in the crowded subway car interjected, Thomas got up and headed straight for the thieves. They shouted at him to sit down, but Thomas kept coming, and one of the assailants shot him in the leg. They leaped from the train at the next stop and were later arrested.

The passengers, who had stood by while the teens were robbed, also left Lewis Thomas to fend for himself: He had to walk to the nearest hospital. Both Thomas and the boy who was pistol-whipped recovered. The two thieves, 20 and 17 years old, were convicted of robbery, conspiracy, and aggravated assault. Lewis Thomas was awarded a Carnegie Medal for acting in the face of danger while others looked the other way.

5Keenia Williams

In 2011, 22-year-old single mother Keenia Williams was driving her young daughter to school early in the morning. As she drove along the California highway, she glanced in her rearview mirror and saw a big rig flip over and catch fire after swerving to avoid two cars that had collided. Williams immediately ran toward the blaze and grabbed the truck driver, 52-year-old Michael Finerty, who had managed to crawl from the cab before losing consciousness. Avoiding the streams of leaking diesel fuel, Williams grabbed Finerty under his arms and pulled him all the way back to her car, where she covered him with her coat and a towel and poured water on his face.

Fire officials said that they would not have seen Mr. Finerty until after they had extinguished the fire and that Williams’s actions had certainly saved his life. Williams was honored by the California Highway Patrol and was the first recipient of the San Francisco Good Samaritan Award. Incredibly, three years later, Williams became a hero for the second time when she witnessed another crash and pulled a woman from the smoky wreckage of her overturned car.



4Darnell Barton

On a fall day in 2013, New York bus driver Darnell Barton was driving his regular afternoon route with a bus full of passengers, most of them high school students. But on this day, as he drove over the Scajaquada Expressway overpass, he noticed a woman on the far side of the guardrail, standing over the busy expressway below. While others drove, cycled, and even walked past the distraught woman in obvious danger, Darnell Barton took action. In a heartwarming act captured on the bus’s surveillance cameras, the former volunteer firefighter stopped the bus and asked if she was all right. Getting no response, Barton radioed for police, then approached the woman and wrapped his arm around her, asking if she wanted to step back over the guardrail. She agreed.

For 20 minutes, Barton spoke to the 20-something woman and reassured her that she could get the help she needed. A corrections officer and a woman with experience in counseling also approached to lend assistance. They took care of the woman until police and firefighters arrived. Darnell Barton’s young passengers broke into applause when he returned to the bus. Following the incident, Barton remained humble in the face of national publicity, saying “I felt like I did what I was supposed to do at the time.”

3Robert Mohr And Rodney Lindley

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In May 1998, freight train conductor Robert Mohr and engineer Rodney Lindley were chugging along the Indiana rails when they saw what appeared to be a puppy on the tracks. On blowing the whistle, the men were stunned to realize that it was in fact a child who had wandered onto the railway line. Nineteen-month-old Emily Marshall had wandered away from her mother, who was gardening in the front yard, and was now sitting on the railroad tracks 50 meters (160 ft) behind her home, with a 6,200-ton train barreling toward her, completely unaware of the danger.

“That’s a baby!” yelled Mohr, and engineer Lindley pulled the brake, slowing the train from 39 kilometers (24 mi) to 16 kilometers (10 mi) per hour. But that wasn’t enough—they wouldn’t be able to stop in time. Mohr ran out onto a catwalk next to the engine and down onto the front grille, ready to try and grab the child. Thankfully, Emily crawled off the rails at the last moment, but she was still too close. In desperation, father of four and Vietnam veteran Mohr swung out his leg and kicked Emily down an embankment. He leaped off after her and held her until paramedics arrived. Thanks to the quick thinking and heroic actions of the two men, little Emily only had a chipped tooth and required stitches to her forehead.

2Angela Pierce

In 2010, Ohio highway patrolman Jonathan Seiter was running a routine traffic stop when he pulled over Otto Coleman. On smelling alcohol on the driver’s breath, Seiter removed him from the car and was preparing to perform a field sobriety test when Coleman attacked the officer. Coleman, who had prior convictions for assaulting a police officer, pinned Seiter against the trunk of his car, and the struggle intensified. Coleman repeatedly attempted to grab Seiter’s weapon, as the officer shouted for help from any possible source.

Cashier Angela Pierce was driving past the scene on her way to a birthday party when she saw the officer in trouble. As other drivers passed by, Pierce told her aunt to stop the car, ran over, and began striking Otto Coleman in the head in an effort to help Seiter regain control. When backup arrived, they briefly detained Pierce before realizing what she had done. They then uncuffed her and gave her high fives. In speaking about the incident on Good Morning America, Officer Seiter said he believed that his rescuer was a guardian angel sent by his deceased parents. Seiter later had the opportunity to meet Angela Pierce and thank her for her actions, on behalf of not only himself but his wife and children.

1Jon Meis

A student at Seattle Pacific University was credited with saving countless lives in June 2014. A gunman had entered Otto Miller Hall and begun shooting, killing one student and wounding two others. While gunman Aaron Ybarra reloaded his weapon, 22-year-old engineering student Jon Meis took action. Meis was a volunteer monitor in the building, sitting at a desk near the entrance. Meis always carried pepper spray, just to be prepared for anything, and this was his chance to use it. He sprayed 26-year-old Ybarra in the face, then tackled him to the ground. Other students piled on, and the police arrived shortly after to arrest the gunman.

Meis was uninjured but in shock and taken to hospital as a precaution. He was hailed as a hero as news of his actions spread across social media, yet he and his family shunned the limelight, declining opportunities to speak with the media. Instead, he released a written statement through the university, crediting his Christian faith and thanking the public for the support but reminding them of the greater tragedy. He requested that any donations be sent to the victims rather than himself. Meis received a standing ovation as he graduated from Seattle Pacific only nine days after the shooting. At the ceremony, the university also announced that an engineering scholarship would be established in his honor.

Caroline Coupe is a freelance writer enjoying expat life in Copenhagen, Denmark. You can read about her adventures around the world and check out her travel photography at www.lovelivetravel.co.uk or on Twitter.