People risk their lives for others every day, but their actions usually go unseen. But in these cases, their heroism is on full display for us to applaud and marvel at.
10. Humpback Whale Rescue
Marine researcher Michael Fischbach and company were boating in the Gulf of California on February 15, 2011, when they stumbled upon a humpback whale caught in a nylon gill net. Its dorsal fins were tied to its body, and its tail was so heavily weighed down it could barely raise its blowhole to the surface. Even though the whale could have overturned their boat and potentially killed them with one panicked gesture, they took a small knife and spent an hour and a half cutting the netting from the whale. At one point the whale tried to swim while still entangled, and the boat was towed for half an hour. When the whale was finally freed, it swam with their boat and breached forty times, which one of the passengers described as a “happy dance.”
9. Bronx Fire Hero
On September 30, 2009, Horia Cretan heard a boy screaming in an apartment four floors above his own. He ran up the fire escape, entered the burning room through the broken window, went 10 feet into the inferno to collect the child and wrap him in curtains, and carried him to emergency medical services below. The anonymous child was in stable condition by the next day.
8. Buried in Avalanche
On March 5, 2015, James Mort was skiing in the Swiss Alps when he was caught in an avalanche and buried under several feet of snow. He was able to extend a ski pole a few centimeters out of the snow, which was found by Daniel O’Sullivan as he and other friends of Mort reached the site. Mort didn’t have a pocket of air, so he thought for sure that he was going to die. He certainly looks like he didn’t have long left when he’s uncovered in the video. The footage of O’Sullivan digging is agonizingly suspenseful even knowing the story ended well.
7. Baby Lily
On March 14, 2015, 18 month old Lily Groesbeck endured 14 hours trapped in an overturned car in freezing cold river water with her dead mother near her before she was rescued after an anonymous call to emergency services. The body camera worn by one of the medical technicians provided harrowing images like the rescue workers being shocked to learn there’s an infant in the car, and the sight of the baby being carried to the ambulance. Sources noted that rescuers were drawn to the accident by the sound of someone calling “help me.” The source of the mysterious voice was never identified, but it clearly wasn’t Mrs. Groesbeck or Lily.
6. Charles Alexander Saves a Cop
Officer Billy Taylor was attempting to subdue a man who’d been endangering several bystanders on October 23, 2012. The man instead attacked the officer and overpowered him, threatening his life. Former gang member and homeless man Charles Alexander stepped in and overpowered the assailant, throwing him to the ground as support arrived.
5. Cyclist Rescue
Brandon Wright’s ordeal on September 12, 2011 sounds as improbable as it does horrible. His motorcycle collided with a BMW, causing it to burst into flame while he slid under the car’s engine. He looked like he was doomed, but a group of people ran to the car and lifted it on its side. Two other civilians slipped under the car and pulled Wright to safety. Wright’s rather low key response to all this was that he would start wearing a motorcycle helmet to promote cycling safety.
4. Madrid Subway
Would you dare step near electrified rails to save a person’s life? How about as a train approaches? You’ll never really know the answer until it happens, unlike the person in this video shot in 2011 in Madrid. The hero not only risks stepping on the highly dangerous rail on his way to pull a man to safety just in the nick of time, but he has to put himself in the way of oncoming death in the process. As heroic as this is, though, we should note that subway authorities stress that civilians shouldn’t risk going down into the rail area under any circumstances. They understandably don’t want anyone to kill themselves attempting to save others.
3. Buenos Aires Hero
The driver of a van experienced a stall at the worst possible moment in this 2011 video. There were less than 20 seconds between the failure of the vehicle’s engine and the impact of an oncoming train, a prospect which would leave many of us too paralyzed with fear to leap out of the car in time. The biker behind him, however, had the presence of mind to get out, push the van out of the way, and just barely leap out of the way of the train himself. The train really looks as if it came within feet of hitting him.
2. Saved by Getting Shot
In probably the most ironic way a human life has been saved, this 2013 story from France began with a man’s financial troubles driving him to threaten to shoot himself in the head. Police were called to the scene, and when no other option presented itself, they shot the man in the leg to get him off his feet and presumably take his mind off of killing himself. When the police entered the home, a member of his family thanked the police for shooting him. The man himself later sent a thank you letter to the police for saving his life. It’s hard to imagine anyone having such a mature view of being shot.
1. Tidal Pool Rescue
Riptides may seem like a comparatively mild threat to someone’s life, but then you have a look at just what the waters were like in California’s Abalone Cove on July 8, 2014. Gary Golding saw a teen who’d been knocked unconscious by the tumultuous waters. He entered the water to try to save the teen, only to be almost immediately overpowered himself. So when Rob McNulty leapt into the water to attempt to save the teen himself, there was an example literally in front of him of how entering the water was likely to be deadly for any would-be hero.
McNulty jumped anyway. Fortunately, by the time he reached the teen and began to drag him to land, Golding had recovered well enough to help. Although McNulty thought the teen was dead, Golding insisted on performing CPR until emergency services arrived. The teen fully recovered. Doctors told the pair that if they’d taken even a minute longer, the teen would have surely died.