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10 Times People Sacrificed Themselves to Save Others

by Paul Medina
fact checked by Rachel Jones

Human beings are designed to be empathetic; they love each other to death, for some, almost literally. However, how much do you love and care for those around you? Are you willing to die for them? For most people, if anyone needs saving, they would find ways to do it without necessarily involving death. The crazy part is that some humans are selfless enough to use their final acts to save others. Don’t believe me? Here are ten times people sacrificed themselves to save others.

Related: 10 People Who Documented Their Deaths

10 Sergeant Travis Atkins

Medal of Honor awarded to soldier who sacrificed himself to save others

The date is the first of June 2007, and the location is war-torn Iraq. The early morning of this fateful day saw Sergeant Travis Atkins call his family, saying he was about to take his men out on a mission. He also notified his mother that he had sent something in the mail for her. What Sergeant Atkins and his family did not know is that they were communicating for the last time. Several hours later, some soldiers came home to inform the Sergeant’s mother that her son had passed away.

While on the mission, Sergeant Atkins and his team set out to frisk two men suspected of setting up roadside bombs. To Sergeant Atkins’s surprise, one of the men had pulled the pin on a grenade to detonate a suicide vest. He bear-hugged the man, lifted him, and slammed him down. As the other officers recount, Sergeant Atkins shielded them from the blast while sacrificing his own life.

When the Sergeant’s parents opened the mail from Sergeant Atkins, they found a letter thanking them for everything they had done for him. Some would say that Sergeant Atkins had foreseen his death. Others would say that everybody sends a simple, ordinary Mother’s Day message. Either way, Sergeant Atkins was a brave, selfless soldier who sacrificed everything for the team. His family was presented with a medal of honor from former President Donald Trump, celebrating Sergeant Atkins’s actions.

9 Casey Jones

Casey Jones: (Jerry Skinner Documentary)

If you love ancient history, this is for you! The year 1900 marked the end of a great American locomotive engineer and a true hero. Jones died with one hand on the train’s whistle and the other on its brake. While on a train to Mississippi, he noticed another freight train was on the same track. Jones quickly ordered his partner to leap out of the train to safety as he struggled to bring the train to a halt.

After a lot of effort, Jones managed to slow the train down to the point that everybody in the train survived but him at the time of impact. This was seen as a remarkable effort, and he remains in the history books. Interestingly, Jones wasn’t supposed to be on this train. After driving the train from Canton, Mississippi, another engineer was supposed to take over from Memphis. Unfortunately, the engineer was sick, so Jones had to fill in.

8 Aitzaz Hassan

The story of Aitzaz Hasan

Fiftenn-year-old Aitzaz Hassan was on his way to school one morning with his friends when they noticed a man wearing a suicide vest. Even though the bomber was dressed in an attire similar to their school uniform, they could tell that he wasn’t a student. When the man approached them asking for directions, Hassan could tell that something was off. Upon realizing that his cover was almost blown, the bomber started to walk hurriedly toward the school gate, but Hassan took it upon himself to ensure he didn’t.

Hassan started pelting stones at the bomber in a bid to stop him. Hassan tackled the bomber as they approached the gate, prompting him to detonate the bomb. With students gathered inside the school for their morning assembly, Hassan sacrificed himself so his schoolmates could live.

7 Lieutenant John Robert Fox

John R. Fox, Unsung Hero

We have all heard of the phrase “shoot yourself in the foot,” and we can all agree we cannot fathom the idea. Now, imagine calling on someone to bomb your location with a missile! Impossible, right? Not for one John Robert Fox, though. The American soldier dared to call on a missile to his location to stop an advancing enemy attack.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in May 1915, John Robert Fox was a young, diligent, and intelligent man ready to conquer the world. When he joined the military at the age of 26, he had his whole career ahead of him. After graduating with the rank of Second Lieutenant, war broke out, and he was commissioned to join the 92nd Infantry Division.

In 1944, Fox found himself in a war against the Nazis in Italy. He was tasked with staying behind in a tiny village of Sommocolonia, Tuscany, to watch over the enemies as his team retreated. Watching from the second floor of the building, he could see the Nazis approaching. Fox used his radio to contact his colleagues, asking them to aim their missiles in his direction. When enough soldiers had moved closer to his location, Fox asked his colleagues to aim and fire the missiles. When asked if he was sure, Fox simply replied, “Fire it,” the missile was fired, killing him on the spot, along with hundreds of other Nazi soldiers.

Through this selfless act, the American soldiers could retreat successfully and eventually took charge of the town from the German soldiers. Fox’s story stood out when countless soldiers fought for their lives and country. He was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for his sacrifices.

6 Kiera Larsen

State proclamation honoring Lakeside girl

When American singer Bruno Mars belted out, “I’ll jump in front of the train for ya,” people thought he was just lyrical and a poet. After all, that is what musicians do. Kiera Larsen probably didn’t know about Bruno Mars’s song, but she was more than willing to jump in front of a moving car to save two toddlers.

“10-year-old girl sacrifices life to save others” is the headline that residents of Lakeside, California, woke up to one morning. Larsen was playing outside their house when she noticed that a car parked not far away was moving at about 10 miles per hour but increasing its speed.

Noticing that the vehicle was headed toward two other children playing in a nearby yard, she rushed and shoved them away from its path. Unfortunately, Larsen did not have time to rescue herself, and she was crushed by the car. Most adults would think twice in such a situation, but it was a no-brainer for Larsen. She is an undoubted heroine.

5 Muelmar Magallanes

Tribute Video Muelmar Magallanes –

In 2009, the Philippines was hit by Typhoon Ketsana, which killed more than 700 people and caused losses worth more than $1 billion. Among the people that died is Muelmar Magallanes, but he was special. Usually, a typhoon starts with heavy rains and overflowing banks. When Magallanes noticed this, he started evacuating his family using a rope tied to his waist. He pulled them from the flooded streets and led them to higher and safer ground.

After evacuating his family, Magallanes noticed his neighbors needed help too. After ferrying over 30 people to safety, Magallanes’s last act of kindness saw him rescue a woman and her six-month-old baby. After towing them to safety, he was so exhausted that he “let go” and drifted away to his death. If this were a movie, you would rage in anger, shouting how the hero deserved a “happy ending.” Unfortunately, life doesn’t have any special effects; it is cruel.

4 Scott Beigel

‘He Saved All Of Our Lives’: Hero Teacher Died Saving Students

Scott Beigel, a geography teacher and cross-country coach, died while saving his students from a shooter. According to an interview conducted by ABC, student Kelsey Friend narrated how Beigel unlocked a door and ushered the students in but didn’t make it himself.

Kelsey explained that Beigel insisted on the students getting in first rather than going first. As the last student entered the room, Beigel was shot dead. With the students in the room panicking, the gunman walked away, probably thinking that the teacher was alone. Kelsey and the other students are forever indebted to this selfless act by their teacher. Talk about leading by example!

3 Rebecca Townsend

A Teen Wanted To Complete Her Bucket List – But Tragedy Struck As She Finished The Final Task

Most 15-year-old girls have dreams of what they want to achieve in life, but most are usually just fantasies. However, Rebecca Townsend was not an ordinary teenager. She knew exactly what she wanted to accomplish in life before dying, which she did. Before her death, Townsend lived in Danbury, Connecticut, where she was born.

Apart from being an amazing actor, the teenager was also academically gifted and set to go to college. Interestingly, Townsend had written a note describing all she wanted to achieve. At the time of her death, she had already achieved two. When Townsend pushed her friend out of the path of an oncoming car before being hit, she completed the third item on her bucket list with that heroic act, even though it left her dead. Even though many were hurt, those who knew Townsend were not surprised by her selfless act; they knew her for that.

2 Tyler Doohan

Hero boy dies trying to save grandfather from fire

One morning, an eight-year-old Tyler Doohan woke up to find the trailer he was in was on fire. Instinctively, the first thing to do, especially for a child, is to rush out yelling. For one, Doohan, the story was different; he started running toward the fire, waking up everyone who was asleep.

Doohan managed to wake up six people, including two younger children. However, when he went in to rescue his grandfather, he succumbed to the raging fire. It is said he died trying to lift his grandpa. Were it not for Doohan’s bravery, the number of casualties would have been higher.

1Neerja Bhanot

Meet Neerja Bhanot

In 1986, New York-bound Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked by terrorists. During a stopover in Karachi, a group of uniformed airport security forces approached the plane, claiming that there were terrorists on board who had masqueraded as passengers, forcing the aircraft to a halt. With the terrorists’ plan A now quashed, they resorted to killing everyone they identified. They ordered the flight attendants to collect everyone’s passports for identification.

Because the flight attendants hid passports belonging to American citizens, there was a 17-hour standoff. Some passengers started leaving through the exit doors, so the terrorists decided to kill everyone on board. Neerja Bhanot played a massive role in these evacuations, but unfortunately, she died. Bhanot saved many lives because of her selfless deeds, and for that, she is still celebrated today. Bhanot was awarded the Ashok Chakra, the highest award for bravery in the face of an enemy—she was the first woman to do so.

fact checked by Rachel Jones