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10 Heroes From The Darkest Attacks In Recent Memory
In times of disaster, Fred Rogers once said, we need to look for the helpers. “You will always find people who are helping,” Mr. Rogers promised, no matter how dark the actions of one person might be. “There are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”
He was right. Even today, when terrorist attacks and mass shootings have become so common that they barely even come as a surprise, there are still helpers. Through every dark tragedy that’s hit our world, there have been people who have risked their own lives to help others.
The helpers still outnumber the killers. And today, as in Fred Rogers’s time, there are still so many caring people in this world.
10 Alexander Teves
The Aurora Theater Shooting
On July 20, 2012, James Holmes walked into a movie theater in Aurora during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, armed with tear gas and guns, and fired on the people inside. It was a terrifying, horrible moment in the world’s history that seemed to reveal the dark side of man.
But there’s another part of the story that few people know. When Holmes opened fire, the people in the theater showed just how much courage they had. Because, out of the 12 people Holmes killed, five died shielding the bodies of those they loved.
One of the survivors, Amanda Lindgren, has told the story of how her boyfriend, Alexander Teves, saved her life. “Alex didn’t even hesitate,” she told reporters. When the shooting started, Amanda panicked and froze—but Alex pulled her down and covered her with his body, whispering, “Stay down. It’s ok. Just stay down.” Holmes fired on them, but Alex shielded Amanda with his own body, taking the bullets so that she could live.
He wasn’t even the only one. Three other men—John Larimer, Matthew McQuinn, and Jon Blunk—died shielding their girlfriends just as Alex did, while another, Gordon Cowden, died protecting his daughter.
“He was my angel that night,” Amanda Lindgren later said, remembering how Alex gave his life to protect hers. “But he was my angel every day I knew him.”
9 Lassana Bathily
The Ile-De-France Attacks
Lassana Bathily was just a shop assistant from Mali working in a supermarket, but he helped bring an end to a three-day-long wave of terrorism. He was there for the last in a series of terrorist attacks that hit Paris from January 7 to January 9, 2015, starting with the attack on Charlie Hebdo—and if it wasn’t for him, more people would have lost their lives.
Bathily was working at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket when Amedy Coulibaly, an Islamist terrorist, walked in with an assault rifle and opened fire. Bathily heard the gunshots. Acting quickly, he gathered up as many of the shoppers as he could and led them into the basement’s cold storage room for safety.
“You stay quiet there, I’m going back out,” Bathily told the group huddled in the basement freezer. He turned off the refrigeration system and the light and then escaped through an elevator for store supplies to look for police.
It didn’t take long to find them. As soon as he got out, the police surrounded him, guns pointed, and handcuffed him. Bathily, though, managed to convince them that he wasn’t the terrorist. Then he gave them a map of the store, showing them where Coulibaly was and where the hostages were hiding.
The police moved in, and with Bathily’s help, managed to take down Coulibaly and put an end to the reign of terrorism that had plagued the city for the past three days. If Bathily hadn’t been there, though, not only would the 15 people in the basement have been left in harm’s way, but Coulibaly’s onslaught would have continued. His next target, if he’d survived, was going to be a school.
8 Imran Yousuf
The Orlando Pulse Nightclub Attack
Imran Yousuf was a bouncer working at the Pulse nightclub. Perhaps if he’d been at the door when Omar Mateen arrived, the night of June 12, 2016, would have gone differently, but instead, Yousuf was in the back room when he heard the gunfire.
The crowd of people in the Pulse rushed into the back room for safety, but there was only one exit in the back, and the door was locked. If no one got it opened, the people huddled back there would have been nothing more than easy targets for Mateen’s massacre. The locked door was directly in Mateen’s line of sight. Anyone who tried to open it would have to risk his life to do so.
Yousuf volunteered. He rushed to the door, exposing himself to Mateen’s guns, and fumbled with the latch until he got it open. By luck, Mateen didn’t pay him any notice, and Yousuf was able to herd the crowd of 60 to 70 people out the back door and get them to safety.
Mateen murdered 49 people in the massacre, but because Yousuf was willing to risk his life, more got out safely.
“I wish I could have saved more, to be honest. There are a lot of people that are dead,” Yousuf said when a reporter asked him about what he did. Then, breaking down into tears, he said it again: “There are a lot of people that are dead.”
7 Victoria Soto
The Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
Victoria Soto was a first-grade teacher working at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She was teaching on the day that Adam Lanza killed his mother, drove to the school, and senselessly killed 20 children and six adults. She would be one of the ones to die at Lanza’s hands—but because of her, the children in her class survived.
When the gunshots began, Soto acted quickly, hiding her young students in the closet and, when no more would fit, inside cupboards around the class. She’d managed to get her children out of sight before Lanza came in, but she was still there, out in the open, when Lanza forced his way into her door.
Lanza asked her where the kids in her classroom had gone, but Soto managed to convince him that they were hiding in the school gym. He shot and killed her on the spot, but then he moved on, leaving the first-graders alone. Because Victoria gave up her life, the children survived.
“Her last act was selfless, Christlike,” the reverend said at Victoria Soto’s funeral, “laying down her life for her children.”
6 Carlos Arredondo
The Boston Marathon Bombing
When the bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon went off on April 15, 2013, most people ran for their lives. There were some, though, who did the exact opposite. They ran right into smoke and the rubble. They weren’t even thinking about their own lives—they were just thinking about the lives of others.
Carlos Arredondo was one of the people who ran right in and was one of the first on the scene. When the dust started to settle, people could make him out, pulling debris off of the wounded and checking on everyone he could find.
He ended saving the life of a man named Jeff Bauman, who’d been right in the blast. Bauman’s legs were already effectively destroyed below the knees. Arredondo, though, acted fast, pinching an artery shut, carrying Jeff off to where the ambulances were pulling in, and whispering “stay with me” every step of the way.
Arredondo’s story became famous afterward because of a photograph of him helping Bauman to safety, but he wasn’t the only one who ran in to help. Two runners who had already passed the finish line turned back as well, and one couple rushed over with coffee shop napkins, desperate to do whatever they could with what they had.
There’s no question, though, that Arredondo saved Bauman’s life. Because he was willing to run toward an explosion instead of away from it, Bauman got the help he needed in time.
5 Robert Engle
The Burnette Chapel Shooting
On September 24, 2017, Emanuel Samson parked outside of Burnette Chapel Church, a pistol in his hand. First, he shot a woman in the parking lot. Then he walked into the church through the rear door and opened fire, wounding six more. It was a horrible tragedy, but it would have been far worse if Robert Engle, a 22-year-old usher, hadn’t been there.
Though Engle was unarmed, he charged at Samson the second he walked in and tried to wrestle the gun from his hand. Samson pistol-whipped him, cutting up his head, but Engle kept fighting what seemed like an unwinnable battle. Then, in the confusion of the struggle, Samson’s gun went off. The gunman had accidentally shot himself.
Engle rushed to his car to get a weapon and then held Samson at gunpoint until the police arrived. “He’s the hero,” Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson later said. “He’s the person that stopped this madness.”
The most incredible part of the story, though, might be how little resentment Engle holds for the man who tried to kill him and the people at his church. When interviewed by the press afterward, Engle said, “Please pray for the shooter, the shooter’s family and friends. They are hurting as well.”
The November 2015 Paris Attacks
On November 13, 2015, Paris was assaulted by a six-pronged terrorist attack that ended 137 lives. Today, we associate the attack with the Bataclan, the theater where the death toll was the highest—but that’s only because of the actions of a few heroic people. If people hadn’t stepped up and protected each other, the attack would have been much worse.
The main target of the attack was supposed to be the Stade de France, a football stadium that, on the night of the attack, was holding 79,000 people in its stands. A terrorist tried to get into the stadium, hoping to start the assault there. He was stopped, however, by a security guard known only as Jeremy, who spotted the bomb and sent him away. The terrorist detonated his vest and killed one person, but because of Jeremy, as many as 79,000 other lives were saved.
There were heroes all across the city, however. We’ve already told you about the acts of Didi, who saved hundreds of people in the Bataclan, but there are countless more. Another man named Bruno saved a stranger’s life by shielding her with his body, and in another part of town, a waiter named Samir sheltered victims in the basement of his restaurant.
These people saved hundreds of lives, but they only remember the horror. “I can’t sleep,” Samir told a reporter after the attack. “I am tired, but I can’t. I keep reliving everything in my head . . . the scenes and all of it.”
3 Marcus Martin
The Charlottesville Attack
It’s a miracle only one person died on August 12, 2017, when white nationalist Alex Fields drove his car into a group of protestors. But one woman who survived the attack, Marissa Blair, is convinced that she only survived because her fiance, Marcus Martin, risked his own life to save hers.
Marcus and Marissa were standing right next to their friend, Heather Heyer, when Fields’s car plowed into the crowd. Martin, in a split-second decision, pushed Marissa out of harm’s way. His actions got her out of the path of Fields’s vehicle—but left him directly in front of it.
Marcus was hit by the car. Marissa lost sight of him completely in the carnage until Fields had driven away. Then she found him, unconscious on the ground and covered in blood.
Marcus survived, though his leg was broken in the carnage. His actions, though, may well have saved Marissa’s life. Their friend Heather Heyer, who’d been right next to Marissa, didn’t survive.
Marissa had to push Marcus in a wheelchair to attend Heather’s funeral, but if Marcus hadn’t gotten her out of the way, it could have been her own.
2 Roy Larner And Ignacio Echeverria
The London Bridge Terrorist Attack
There’s a good chance you’ve heard the story of Roy Larner or, if nothing else, his iconic battle cry of: “F— you, I’m Millwall!”
Larner was near London Bridge on June 3, 2017, when three terrorists drove a van into a crowd of people and then ran out and began attacking them with knives. Larner, a football fan who wasn’t afraid of a fight, yelled out the name of his favorite team and charged the terrorists head-on. He was stabbed five times, but he held them off long enough to stop them from carrying through a planned attack on a nearby restaurant.
Larner, though, wasn’t the only person there who was ready to stand up to terror. Ignacio Echeverria, a 39-year-old Spanish skateboarder, was also on hand. When he saw one of the terrorists attacking a defenseless woman, he rushed in and beat the attacker off with his skateboard.
Echeverria lost his life in the fight. He fended off one attacker but was stabbed by another from behind. Still, he and Larner showed the terrorists that the people weren’t going to stand idly by while their city was attacked. They were going to fight back with whatever they had—be it a skateboard or nothing more than a few pints of liquid courage.
1 Jesus Campos
The Las Vegas Strip Shooting
Just days ago, murderer Stephen Paddock opened fire on a country music concert in Las Vegas. It was the worst mass shooting in American history, and it’s easy to feel like this is the darkest moment yet. Stephen Paddock, though, is only one person—and on that day, Las Vegas was full of heroes.
One of the bravest was Jesus Campos, a security guard at the Mandalay Bay casino and hotel. Campos didn’t have any weapons, and he knew that the shooter was heavily armed, but as soon as the first bullets fired, he risked his own life to try to stop him.
Campos made his way up to Paddock’s room and tried to break the door. He soon found out, though, that it had been barricaded. Paddock had cameras set up in the hallway as well, so he was watching on a screen while Campos tried to break through his door. He turned and fired through the door, hitting Campos in the leg.
Still, Campos didn’t give up. As he lay on the floor bleeding out, he radioed his dispatch and let them know he’d found the shooter. Then he stayed by Paddock’s door, even with the bullets in his leg, so that he could show the SWAT team how to get in.
Campos wasn’t able to stop Paddock, but he slowed him down. He diverted Paddock’s senseless attack for a moment, saving an uncountable number of lives. And, more than that, he demonstrated the courage that still fills so many caring people in this world.