Every American remembers where he or she was when the news broke of the Twin Towers falling on that clear September morning. The day that changed the American way of life forever. And since September 11, 2001, sadly, many more unthinkable tragedies have come to pass.
And although it is sometimes hard to see the good that comes from these tragic affairs, good still exists. After every single event, there has been and outpour of “helpers” at the scene. The heroes show up. And if you look closely at these stories, you will see human beings reaching out to one another with a message of hope and connection.
Join us as we honor those heroes.
Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting
December 12, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut marked one of the darkest days in America’s history. 20-year-old Adam Lanza brutally shot 20 6-year-olds, and 6 teachers and staff members. Then he killed himself.
This attack is unspeakable. Innocent children dead. But the accounts of the actual event tell the story of brave teachers selflessly hiding their children while the gunman shot them down. Tens of children lives were saved by these brave and heroic actions.
Click “Start Slideshow” to honor these Heroes, starting with one courageous teacher and never let their sacrifices and selflessness be forgotten.
The Teacher: Sandy Hook’s Hero
Victoria Leigh “Vicki” Soto (November 4, 1985 – December 14, 2012)
Ms. Soto sacrificed herself to save her students by bravely hiding her students in a closet, and instructing them not to make a sound. When the gunman entered the room, Ms. Soto told him that the students were in the gym. According to Wikipedia, some students ran out of their hiding spot, and Ms. Soto jumped in front of the gunman. He shot her, and left the room. Ms. Soto is the reason that many young students lived.
Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, said: “…our thanks go out to every teacher, staff member, and first responder who cared for, comforted, and protected children from harm, often at risk to themselves. We will do everything in our power to assist and support the healing and recovery of Newtown.”
Click “Next” below for more heroes.
Boston Marathon Attack
April 15, 2013: On a crisp Boston morning as thousands of eager runners lined up to take off in the Boston Marathon, explosions sounded all around. Pressure Cooker bombs had been set off by Chechen brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The FBI indicated the brothers were motivated by extreme Islamic beliefs, but had no official terrorist ties. The bombs killed 3 civilians and injured 264 other marathon goers.
Click “Next” below to honor the hero of this tragedy.
Carlos Arredondo The “Cowboy Hat” Boston Marathon Hero
Carlos Arredondo, the hero in the cowboy hat, sprung into action right after the bombs went off. He quickly carried away victims to safety, helping those who were bleeding and injured. His brave and selfless actions were according to him, just a “human natural instinct.”
After this incident, the Mayor of Boston was amazed by the outpouring of support both local and international. President Obama commented, “If you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil, that’s it,” Obama’s quote said, remembering how some raced toward the site of the blast to help the injured. “Selflessly, compassionately, unafraid.”
Since then, Boston has been remembered with the hashtag #BostonStrong
2013 Savar Building Collapse
A Structural failure led to 1,130 people being crushed to death by a commercial building in Bangledesh. The rescue workers risked their own lives when the Bangledshi government refused international aid to help them quickly rescue those buried alive.
Click next to honor the heroes.
Manzur Ahsan: A Brave Firefighter Who Continued To Rescue People
Brave Bangladeshi fire and rescue crew fought their way through the building that was collapsed like “pieces of sliced bread.”
They did so despite the Bangledshi government’s stubborn refusal to accept international assistance for the rescue effort, and in grave danger to their own lives.
But thanks to their efforts, 24 people were found alive in an air pocket on the third floor of the building nearly a week after the collapse. According to one brave rescue worker, named Manzur Ahsan “We broke through on Friday afternoon and immediately heard cries for help,” said Ahsan. “Some survivors struck the concrete with loose bricks to attract attention.”
This next story is one of a true American Hero. Click Next.
Fort Hood Shooting
In 2009, Nidal Hasan, a U.S. Army major and psychiatrist with al Queda connections, fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 others at Fort Hood near Killeen, Texas. The shooting produced more casualties than any other on an American military base.
Click next to honor the brave soldier who gave his life to help stop the shooter.
Fort Hood Hero, Captain John Gaffaney
Captain Gaffaney, a reservist on duty at the base, threw a chair at the shooter, and then charged him, in an attempt to stop the carnage. The shooter shot and killed Gaffaney. He was awarded The Soldier’s Medal posthumously. And his actions came as no surprise to his wife, Christine, who said, “It sounded just like John. He wouldn’t be the one who would be ducking or staying out of harm’s way. He would have been trying to protect everyone else.”
Our next tragedy had three heroes who are now angles for those they saved.
Aurora Movie Theatre Massacre
July 20, 2012, 12 people were murdered and 70 injured in a crowded movie theatre. A man dressed in all black used tear gas to stun the crowd, then opened fire in a cowardly and inhumane act. The perpetrator plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
Three of the twelve victims gave their lives to save others. Please click next to honor those three.
1) Aurora Hero 26 Year Old Navy Vet Jonathan Blunk.
Jonathan saved his girlfriend, Jansen Young’s life: “He laid up against me and had the other side of my body against the concrete seating, and I was pretty much boxed in,” Young said.
“He is a hero. And he was a hero before this, and before I met him. All he wanted to do was serve his country and help people in need,” Young said. “He used to say he was born to serve his country, and he just really is. He’s a true hero.”
2) Aurora Hero 21 Year Old Stephanie Davis.
Stephanie was at the front of the theater and was almost struck with the incendiary canisters. She saw her friend, 19 year old Allie Young get shot in the neck. Stephanie grabbed Allie, and applied pressure to Allie’s neck. All the while, Allie was begging Stephanie to run. But Stephanie used her other hand to dial 911, and ultimately ushered Allie to safety.
Click Next For the last Hero of this story.
3) Aurora Hero 27 Year Old Matt McQuinn
Another hero, Matt died while shielding his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler. The girl’s father, David Jackson is forever indebted to Matt. He said, “I know he’s a hero… He and Sam were very much in love and planning their life together. I am sure they were thinking very seriously of getting married soon.”
The next attacks were the worst this country has ever seen. And the hero is still unnamed.
November 13, 2015 terrorist coordinated to attack the soccer stadium at St. Dennis, and various cafes and bars around Paris. 139 people lost their lives that day. And nearly another 100 were seriously injured. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying that it was retaliation for the French airstrikes on ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq.
The hashtag #portesouvertes (“open doors”) was used by Parisians to offer shelter to those afraid to travel home after the attacks.
While there were many tales of heroism following the Paris attacks, one took our breath away.
“Didi” The Bataclan Concert Hall Hero in the Paris Attacks
35 year old “Didi” does not want to give his last name for fear that the perpetrators behind the Paris attack might find him. Didi works as a security guard outside of the Bataclan Theatre. When he arrived for work, the terrorist were shooting. He quickly realized that they were aiming for as much carnage as possible, and it was up to him to help people escape from the theatre.
He quickly rushed into the theatre and opened “Emergency” doors, ushering out as many people as he could. He kept going back in, and got stuck in the Theatre while the shooting continued. When the gunman stopped to reload, Didi jumped up and shouted for people to follow him.
Didi saved hundreds of lives that night. Including Myriam, the mother a beautiful 8 month old baby:
“I heard somebody scream, ‘Get out, get out, get out!’ very loud. And of course now I realize that was Didi already,” says Myriam. She along with so many others are alive, thanks to Didi.
Mayriam continues, “My life will never be long enough to thank him for what he did,” she says. “And thanks to him, my baby has a mother. We saw the worst things that night, the worst human beings ever. And then we saw the best thing.”
The next attack was quite recent, and the heroes last words are beautiful. Click next.
In December 2015, Pakistani couple Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire on 80 people. They killed 14 men and women who were enjoying an office Christmas party in a government building of San Berardino. They were a Muslim couple, and credited ISIS for their actions.
Honor the Hero who saved his co-worker and friend, and hear his heartbreaking last words. Click next.
Shannon Johnson, The Hero of San Bernardino Shooting
“I got you.” That was the last thing Shannon Johnson said to his friend and co-woker Denise Peraza before using his body as a shield to protect her from flying bullets.
Denise said that “[She] will always remember his left arm wrapped around me, holding me as close as possible next to him behind that chair,” she said. “And amidst all the chaos, I’ll always remember him saying these three words, “I got you.”
Madrid Train Bombings
In March 2004, almost 200 people died, and another 2,000 were injured in a coordinated terrorist attack on Madrid’s train commuter system. The attack was successful at getting Spain out of Iraq.
A “memorial forest” of olive and cypress trees was planted in El Retiro park in Madrid, near the Atocha railway station, to honor the victims of this terrible crime.
And although no reports have come forward about any particular hero, 10 years later, 3 American men successfully stopped a similar attack on a train going from Amsterdam to Paris. You won’t believe their story. Click next to see it.
3 American Heroes Save Train From Terrorist Attack
Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler.
When two off duty service men, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos saw a crazy gunman on a high speed train, they sprang into action.
Skarlatos screamed, “Let’s go, go!” As Stone followed, sprinting 30 feet down the train to grab the AK-wielding gunman by the neck.
“I got the handgun away from the guy and threw it,” said Skarlatos, a 22-year-old from Oregon.
“I grabbed the AK, which was at his feet, and started muzzle thumping him in the head with it.”
The third hero, Anthony Sadler helped beat down the terrorist until he was no longer a threat.
Stone sustained stab wounds to his neck, eye, and hands. But fully recovered.
And thanks to these men, a massacre was adverted.
The next massacre shows the courage and conviction of family.
Charleston Church Shooting
On July 17, 2015, 21-year-old Dylann Roof opened fire on a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. He killed 9 people. Roof had allegedly penned a white supremacist manifesto.
After this shooting, over 20,000 people in the Charleston community came together to show their support and solidarity. They all held signs and flags to let the country know that this hate will not be tolerated.
And stories surfaced of a brave young man who just wanted to protect his elderly aunt. Click next.
26 Year Old Twanza Sanders begged the gunman not to shoot, jumping in front of his 87 year old Auntie, Susie Jackson. As Sanders pleaded with the gunman to take him instead of his Aunt, the gunman said, “it doesn’t matter. I am going to shoot you all.” And Twanza took a bullet.
Kenya Westgate Mall Attack
On September 21, 2013, Islamic extremist gunmen killed 67 people, and wounded nearly 157 others. See the mother who saved her children next.
Mother is The Hero
This photo says everything. A mother saved her two young children by telling them to play dead.
Seattle Jewish Center Shooting
July 28, 2006, Pakistani-American Naveed Afzal Haq, shot 6 women, killing one at the Jewish Center in Seattle. One woman did something to help. Click next.
Pregnant Mother Hero For Seattle Jewish Community Center
Dayna Klein, 37, was struck with a bullet in the arm as she was defending her pregnant belly. She helped end the carnage by crawling into her office, calling 911, and convincing the attacker to negotiate with authorities. She recovered from her injuries.
Syrian Civilians Are Gassed To Death
Allegedly it was the The Syrian government, lead by Assad, that used Sarin, a deadly nerve gas to kill its own citizens. On August 21, 2013, thousands of ordinary citizens of the City of Damacas were gassed to death in the middle of the night. They woke up choking to their last breaths. Syria is in the middle of a terrible Civil War, where there is little positive news to report, but one group has done more than any other to assist those left behind in the War’s rubble.
Click Next to learn about this group of heroes.
The White Helmets
Also known as the Civil Defense go where no one else does in and around Syria. To areas that have been completely destroyed by bombs. Areas where public services no longer exist. And they do so without weaponry. According to the White Helmet’s website, they have saved almost 50,000 people.
One of these White Helmets, Mohammad Nour Houriyya, describes what a typical day for them looks like “On our first day, we went with the team to an area that had just been hit by an explosive barrel. But as soon as we entered the partially destroyed building, we heard people screaming outside that the helicopters had returned… the moment has pierced my memory for ever,” he said.
Heroes exist all across the globe, but the American Soldier in our next story exemplifies what it means to be brave in the face of danger.
Chattanooga Terrorist Attack
In July 2015 Mohammad Abdulazeez, a radicalized terrorist, shot and killed four Marines and one sailor at a US Navy Reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was the son of two Palestinian-Jordanian parents.
One Marine ran straight into danger. Click next.
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan: Chattanooga Hero
When others ran away, Sgt. Thomas Sullivan ran to help. In trying to save his fellow marines, he was shot and killed. Marine Sgt. Amanda Vincent recounted Sullivan’s brave actions, “The only thing on his mind was if his Marines were OK. He had a chance to jump the fence and run, but instead he ran back to make sure (I) and the others inside and the Marines that were shot were OK,” Vincent said in a message to Sullivan’s family.
Battery Commander Major Michael Abrams, speaking at the memorial service, expressed that he was “deeply proud” of how the marines and sailors responded to the shootings, saying, “In the chaos of that moment, they were selfless in their efforts to take care of one another, and they acted with unquestionable courage.”
Next, we see that even those who are not professionally trained will do anything they can to help. Click next.
In April 2016, 32 victims were killed, and over 300 people injured when terrorist released a shrapnel bomb known as a “Nail Bomb” a the Brussels airport and metro station. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks.
One hero saved as many as 7 people. Click next to hear his story.
Baggage Wrapper Saves 7 In Brussels
A man known only as “Alphonse” carried up to seven wounded people to safety after the suicide bomber attacked Brussel’s airport. Alphonse was working at his modest paying job as a baggage wrapper. He was at the check in area when the explosion occurred, and this photo released via social media shows his heroic efforts.
Sydney Australia Siege
40 Aussies were held captive for 16 hours by an islamic extremist from December 15-16 2014. Two hostages and the gunmen were killed. After the siege ended, the location was literally filled with a “Field of Flowers” which honored the two hostages killed. The Prime Minister assured the Australian people that extreme terrorist would not put their freedom in jeopardy.
Sydney Siege Hero
Tori Johnson, the store manager at the Lindt Cafe, noticed that after HOURS of the siege going on, the gunman was getting tired. When he noticed the assassin drifting off, he tried to wrestle the gun from him. This gave the police the opportunity to rush the cafe. Sadly, for Johnson, the gunman took his life.
One describes Tori Johnson as an Australian hero, with one of the comments simply saying “Australia’s hero – RIP Mate”.
Click next to learn why you just don’t mess with folks in Texas. Ever.
ISIL Attack at Curtis Culwell Center
Two men did a “drive by” shooting a security guard in the ankle. The two Muslims, Nadir Soofi and Elton Simpson perpetrated the attack because the Center featured a cartoon caricature of Muhammad.
For 10 months after the attack, no one knew the officers name who stopped this attack from going further. Until now. Click next.
Garland Officer Gregory Stevens
After surviving a gunshot to the ankle, Officer Stevens used his car to block the terrorist from advancing, and opened fire on them. According to Stevens, “My training kicked in, and I did what I was trained to do.” Thanks to the brave actions of the police officer who shot the terrorist, and the SWAT teams’ quick response, the damage was contained.
Texas Governor Abbot stated after the attack, “”[The attack] serves as a reminder that free and protected speech, no matter how offensive to some, never justifies violence of any sort. This attack also underscores the importance of close collaboration between federal, state and local authorities in our Nation’s homeland security efforts, as well as public awareness and vigilance.”
The next attack had the world feeling the pain. Click next.
Charlie Hebdo Attack in Paris
A gunman opened fire on a satyrical newspaper called Charlie Hebdo for publishing a cartoon of Muhammad. The gunman killed 11 people, and injured 11 others. While the world came to Charlie Hebdo’s defense, coining the term “Je Suis Charlie” one person’s action stood out as above and beyond.
Click next to hear how a Muslim police officer reacted.
Charlie Hebdo Hero
Ahmed Merabet., a Muslim, was one of the first responders at the Charlie Hebdo attacks. As he was shot in the leg, he pleaded with the attackers to end their assault. And was executed in the head despite his pleas for peace, and the fact that he was a muslim.
Planned Parenthood Shooting
November 27, 2015 Robert Lewis Dear, Jr. a self-proclaimed “warrior for babies” opened fire at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood killing 2 civilians. The community considered this attack a form of domestic terrorism against women’s rights.
One man rushed into the clinic as shots rang out. Click next to honor this hero.
Officer Garret Swasey, Planned Parenthood Hero
Garret Swasey knew he was rushing into a dangerous situation when he chose to help those under attack at a Planned Parenthood. He left behind his wife and two young children, sacrificing himself to save others. At his funeral service in Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper said of Swasey “He was brave and strong and courageous and in sacrificing his life for others he has forever altered the lives of everyone here,”
Swasey’s wife, Rachel, was not surprised by her husband’s actions, and says that he was lead by his faith, and now that he is gone, she still puts her faith in the Lord, stating, “The love of my life gave his life without regret.”
June 12, 2016 Omar Mateen, an American Citizen born to Afghan parents opened fire at Pulse Night Club, killing 50 people, and injuring 53. Omar was a registered democrat and muslim who pledged allegiance to ISIL. In an odd twist, Mateen had a profile on a gay dating site, despite the fact that he was married to a woman. His wife went with him to buy firearms.
The attacks occurred on Pride week, and Pulse was a gay bar. Almost every single major city had a vigil following this attack. The Eifell tower was lit in rainbow, and tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets of London. The entire world felt the pain of America’s deadliest shooting.
And the beautiful heroes of that night included many, but one in particular stood out to us. Click next.
Orlando Hero Edward Sotomayor Jr.
Sotomayer was one of the first people found dead. When the first shots were being fired he threw himself in front of his boyfriend to protect him and was fatally wounded. Friends on Social media wrote “He was one of those very special people that once you got to know him you knew you were in the presence of a someone special.”