Friday Question of the Day – What’s the Most Heroic Thing You’ve Witnessed?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Elizabeth

Yesterday we learned about the hero bartender who stopped a guy with a knife from robbing folks at Barcelona. There’s now a indiegogo set up to get him a big tip:

Last night, an unnamed bartender at Barcelona at 14th street acted quickly and disarmed a masked man who was later charged with robbery. His quick thinking avoided what could have been an extremely troubling situation.

As a patron during the events that unfolded, I would like to honor his bravery and courage by showing a small token of my apprection and that of everyone in Barcelona at that time for the actions of this absolute hero.

We’ll never know what could have happened, but thanks to this bartender, we’ll never have to.

Anyway, it got me thinking about heroic things others may have witnessed. Have you?

60 Comment

  • Cops who go to work and do this stuff every day.

    • Well, that’s what we’re paying them for, presumably.

    • Good call. All while being lumped in with the relatively small number of bad cops that give them a bad rep.

    • Agree. Those situations where someone starts swinging away, pulls out a gun, flashes a knife, and I get to run away? They have to run towards it. Not easy.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a grand act of heroism – pulling someone out of a burning car, fighting off an attacker, that sort of thing. But, when I was 14 years old, my father passed up an opportunity to sell a couple of sports tickets only because he knew I wanted to go to the game. If he’d been by himself, or with a friend, he’d definitely have sold them. It was a huge amount of money, at a time when we could have used it – the rough equivalent of $15,000 or so. And it was at a time in my life what I was an absolute monster, and had made life very difficult for the whole family – far above and beyond normal teenage angst. But he knew it meant the world to me, so he passed on the opportunity, we went, and it was one of the highlights of my childhood. I know that’s not the kind of heroism the question was seeking, and it may not fit others’ definitons, but it was, and remains, heroic to me.

  • Was at Olympic Park in Atlanta when the pipe bomb went off. Super scary and tons of commotion. Was lucky because I was able to get on a commuter bus and out of there really quickly!

  • justinbc

    I don’t guess I’ve ever witnessed any true act of heroism. I’ve seen plenty of nice things that people do for each other, but nothing that anyone in their normal capacity couldn’t accomplish. I guess it also varies what some people consider as heroic. Probably the closest thing I’ve witnessed was one of my rugby teammates having part of his ear torn off in a scrum during a match and then going back in to finish the match after having his head patched up. Crazy to some (most), but heroic in a way for those playing that day.

    • Interestingly enough i saw the same thing happen to one of my rugby teamates in college. Was no joke to watch a man have his ear taped back to his head and finish the game fullspeed.

  • Two memorable ones…

    Woke up to a commotion at 3AM, looked out the window to witness a couple of the regular corner heroin dealers pull a woman from a fire-engulfed car in Baltimore 20 years ago.

    Saw a cop tackle and control a crazed, raving, covered-in-blood, knife-wielding woman at 16th and Park Road about 8 years ago. He could have shot her, but he pulled her to the ground at great risk to himself. His shirt, pants, arms and hands were covered in her blood as he was taken away in an ambulance.

    • Sick! It’s so easy for us cubicle jockies to judge cops. You know the feeling of dread we get just by having to metro to an office and sit on our asses? Imagine having to get up and protect thousands of people, EVERYDAY. I personally couldnt imagine it.

  • When my daughter was 2 days old she went into heart failure. Her doctor performed an emergency bedside Pericardiocentesis to save her life. In the middle of a crowded room he shoved a giant needle into her heart to remove fluid that was compressing her heart.

  • This individual who started the gofundme is the same guy who started the kickstarter for Kenny Loggins to play at his rowhome in Capitol Hill in 2014

  • I saw a youngish man in a BMW come close to hitting a pedestrian at the rather confusing intersection of Georgia and Missouri. The pedestrian went ballistic and started to scream at the driver. The driver rolled down his window and apologized, explained his confusion briefly, and took responsibility for the mistake. He wasn’t meek, but he was contrite. It was neat to see someone totally defuse a situation and take responsibility.

  • I didn’t really witness it, because I have no memory of the event, but my younger brother saved my life when I was 13. He was 11 and we were walking to the bus stop, when I had a cardiac arrest (again, no memory of any of this!). He had the presence of mind to flag down a passing car (the driver happened to be a school nurse) and bang on the door of the nearest neighbor. Thanks to his quick thinking and actions, I received CPR in under a minute, was life-flighted to an amazing children’s hospital, and had no brain damage or long term effects. To me, that was pretty heroic. I DID witness my dad help a lady out of a car that flipped several times down from a raised highway to the lower level, which then started leaking gas everywhere and smoking. He was a Boy Scout, trained life guard, and knew that even though ideally someone in a wreck like that should be immobilized before trying to move them, there was the imminent danger of the car exploding, so he helped her climb out of her window. It was nuts and so so scary. But also awesome.

    • topscallop

      Wow, your family has lots of heroes! That’s amazing on both counts.

      • Yeah, I like my family! They’re crazy, but they’re pretty great! I always hope that some of it would rub off on me and I would be heroic if I had to be, but I mostly just freeze like a deer in headlights when something crazy goes down.

  • A provocative HONY-worthy question. I am racking my brain and am coming up with nothing. Perhaps, indeed, a hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich.

  • Not one particular instance comes to mind, but I did volunteer work with a rape crisis center for a couple of years. Seeing survivors of sexual violence who managed to heal their own lives and then go on to help support other survivors allowed me to witness some of the best parts of our humanity (resiliency, our capacity to rise above horrific traumas, the active choice to acknowledge fully the dark aspects of this world but still choose to believe and see the good and potential in people, compassion). Also, moments of seeing health care providers and law enforcement personnel go above and beyond (and show genuine caring and empathy) for survivors always helped reaffirm my faith in people.

    • That’s awesome, artemis!

    • That’s wonderful that law enforcement was showing empathy for the victims! I’ve known victims who were far more traumatized by the police response than the sexual assault itself.

    • emvee

      Yes, this absolutely. I volunteered for a while with a great group in Baltimore that is working to end rape culture and encourages survivors to share their stories (should they feel it’s the best way for them to heal). The women, and some men, I met there were some of the strongest, bravest people I’ll ever meet. They are their own heroes and it’s inspiring to witness.

  • Two years ago on an airplane a passenger went into cardiac arrest…a nurse that happened to be on a plane jumped into the aisle, pulled the passenger down and began CPR while the plane made an emergency landing. Not sure if the passenger did make it, but the whole thing inspired me to take a CPR class. So scary.

    • Did you know that most medical professionals would not want CPR done on them if they were in that situation? Apparently there’s a lot that can go terribly wrong. I guess it’s good to know how to do it but I’m not sure it’s necessarily a good idea…

      • I’ve heard that NPR segment, too. I think it has to do with the low likelihood of recovery without long-term effects, such as brain damage. LittleBluePenguin’s story above might offer a different perspective.

        • If someone witnesses the heart attack and starts CPR right away, then the patient can recover well. But there is a very small window of time during which CPR can do some good. After that, the patient’s chance of avoiding permanent effects (brain damage, cardiac tissue death, etc.) are very slim.

          • yup, this. Although to be clear, cardiac arrest (where the heart stops beating), NOT a heart attack. Please don’t try to do CPR on someone who is having a heart attack!

          • Yikes, I should have caught that. Thanks for making that distinction.

  • When I was a foreign aid worker in Iraq, I worked with a lot of Iraqis who risked their lives repeatedly to try and help their countrymen. We had people on our team who would travel to the most dangerous neighborhoods in Baghdad during the worst of the sectarian fighting to hold town hall type meetings to try to get a handle on the violence, a lot of them were kidnapped and some were killed.

    I also went to high school with a guy who became a DC firefighter. He got hurt quite badly while conducting search and rescue during a fire.

  • check out 2nd fundraising site for bartender on Indiegogo; up to $170 on that one.

  • I didn’t personally witness it, but I heard that the bystanders at the crash that killed my sibling were pretty amazing. One in particular noticed when the car veered off the road and followed them down to the accident site. They reached into a burning car, pulled my nephew out and stayed with him until the EMTs arrived. By all accounts, there is no way that my nephew would have survived without the bystander acting so quickly.

  • My mother opened her home to a rape victim who wandered onto our street. Numerous neighbors looked but wouldn’t help her or call the cops.

    Similarly, some years later, I yelled out at a guy trying to rape someone in the alley behind my house, called the cops, and stayed in plain view of him to give a good description.

  • While on a high school trip to Spain, my friend’s purse (with passport, credit cards, everything) was stolen while we were eating at an outdoor café. I ended up chasing down the woman and screaming at her until she gave it back. In hindsight, being that I was a 115 pound 16 year old girl, this was probably more foolish than heroic and my mom asked that I never do anything like that again. But hey, my friend losing all her stuff on day two of a ten day trip would’ve really sucked!

  • 10 years ago I was leaving the Petworth Post Office when I see a man pull a kid that was crossing the intersection of Georgia and Upshur. I then noticed a car going top speed driving on Georgia. The car scrapped one of the boy’s leg. By the time I go nearby, I could hear the man trying to convince the boy to stick around while he called the police and an ambulance but the boy left the area.

  • My friends and I were in a park at night drinking in high school, as high schoolers sometimes do. We were sitting on the edge of an overpass and my friend suddenly darted to the middle of it. I looked behind me, and he was pulling a girl back up over the railing. She was 15 and trying to commit suicide by jumping into the traffic below, and my friend caught her just in time.

  • skj84

    Personally witnessed: Total strangers who ran after a woman exiting the metro who dropped her wallet.

    Didn’t witness: My sister physically stopped a friend from drowning herself. The friend was dealing with a tramatic year culminating with walking in on her boyfriend cheating on her on a group beach trip. A fight broke out and amongst the chaos my sister sees the friend running along the beach and into the water. My sister and another friend ran after the woman and dragged her out of the water. My sister didn’t even think about how dangerous the situation was until later, it was late at night and there were no lifeguards around.

  • I guess I didn’t really witness it but for some reason it stays with me. A few years ago, a young woman in NYC was brutally raped by an off-duty police officer while she was on her way to teach elementary students. While the older lady who called 911 from her apartment (she heard the woman screaming) definitely saved her life, the young woman displayed nothing short of heroism in the days and years that followed. Not only did she have to re-tell the awful/disgusting story step by step hundreds of times and go through multiple testimonies over several trials, she then owned her story publicly and lobbied her state congress for better laws protecting victims of sexual assault (I think this is still ongoing). I only followed the story because I was from the same state, but I still think of that kind of heroism all the time – that kind that will hopefully serve others the justice she didn’t really receive for years to come.

  • College audiovisual supervisor who stretched himself over an open, center-ceiling skylight hole – several stories over the floor – to extend a wire to hang a banner. Done with grace and sangfroid. I will lever forget it.

    Also: Saw a man leap fully dressed and with glasses on arc into a pool to save a toddler who slipped into the chlorine waters.

  • Heroism is such an interesting concept. You have the superhero-type moments that are literally a matter of life and death and a person being save from death or injury. I have worked with some amazing heroes in the course of my career, and none greater than the Burn Surgeons (and those who work in the Burn Center period) at Washington Hospital Center. Burns are by far, in my opinion, the most tragic of injuries, particularly the most severe cases. A few years ago, a co-worker of mine’s brother was involved in a horrendous car accident in which he became entrapped in a burning car. He was brought to WHC and became a patient of the doctors we worked with. My co-worker went from being a colleague to being a patient’s family member in moments, and it was incredibly moving to see how they dealt with her with such compassion. I knew they were great before, but after that I think we all fully understood just how awesome they are. Perhaps the most heroic thing they did in the entire time the brother was on the burn unit was to have the hard but honest conversation about it being time to let go. I’ve seen and been a part of those conversations so many times in my career, but this one was very different.
    Doctors (and nurses and other healthcare professionals) will always be heroes in my eyes. Yes they are compensated (as was mentioned about cops earlier), but until you walk in their shoes, you will never have any idea how much is emotionally involved in caring for others.

  • Not something that I witnessed, but something that happened to my family.
    My grandfather was an ardent pipe tobacco smoker and was confined to a wheelchair/could not support himself and required the assistance of a home health aide. My uncle had sent the aide home while he visited with my grandfather and was in the back of the house getting something when my grandfather began screaming. He had, accidentally, lit a tissue on fire rather than for his pipe, and thrown the tissue into the trash can next to him. The fire spread and lit the chair he was confined to on fire. My uncle did his best to get him out of the chair, while burning, and to safety while the house smoldered around them. This house contained my entire family’s history, dating back to the 1700s when they were given the land he lived on. Deeds, personal histories, Christmas stockings, you name it. While my uncle was getting my grandfather out, he too was burning. Miraculously, two random Irish bicyclists stopped (this was a country road in North Carolina; they were there at the right time in the right place) and helped my uncle carry my grandfather out of the house and call 911. Their bravery gave my family and extra week with my grandfather before he passed and provided some comfort in one of our darkest hours. We still do not know who they were or if they were injured or anything, but I have always wanted to find them and thank them. Their calling 911 when they did helped save some of the house from destruction and allowed my family to retain some of its most cherished things, alongside a week’s worth of time with my grandfather to say goodbye. The doctors and nurses at the burn center were equally amazing in one of our darkest times, and it amazes me that that is what they do every day.

  • HaileUnlikely

    Not personally witnessed, but: I have a friend who is very heavy (probably pushing 300 pounds) and uses a motorized wheelchair. She fell onto the metro tracks (at either Union Station or Judiciary Square, don’t recall which) about 7-8 years ago. She indicated after the fact that she fell asleep while waiting for the train and sort of slumped over in her wheelchair and tipped it over onto the tracks. It was late in the evening, and there were not many people around. A couple of young men (late teens or early 20’s, I think a news report of the incident said they were in the Army) saw her fall, jumped down to the tracks, and were able to hoist her back up onto the platform. Recall that she is nearly 300 pounds, uses a wheelchair, and was further incapacitated from the impact of the fall – these guys were basically hoisting 300 pounds of dead weight from the ground up to about shoulder level to get her back up off of the tracks and onto the platform – not an easy feat. But according to reports of the few other witnesses there, they didn’t hesitate at all, they just sprang into action.

  • I was once walking home from a late night and a man started following me and yelling at me. He was following me for two or three blocks and I was at the point where I’d normally turn to make my way home but that street is much more secluded and dark and I knew turning wouldn’t be a good idea.
    Right before the turn I saw a guy loading a guitar into the backseat of his car. Without slowing down or even really looking at the guy I just said, “Hey can you help me with this?” and the guy did. He just started talking to the man who was following me which, thankfully, made him stop.
    I was able to turn the corner and get home safely and I’m not so sure that would have been the case if that guy didn’t intervene.

  • When I was a sophomore in college, I was driving on the freeway, when someone cut me off, causing me to brake quickly, fishtail, and swerve into the median. It had just rained heavily the night before, so my car fell into a massive mud puddle (more like a miniature lake). I hit the puddle so hard, a tidal wave of mud completely covered my car from hood to tire. When the car came to a complete stop, I just remember shaking violently and bursting into tears (mostly because I only came several feet from oncoming traffic before I spun the steering wheel hard to avoid it). Before I knew it, three passersby stopped. Two made sure I was ok, and the third one just happened to be driving a tow truck. They hitched my car and the three of them pushed and towed my car to safety before I could even fully understand what just happened. I will never forget those people and am forever grateful for their help!

  • The staff and volunteers at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN, as well at the young patients and their families.

  • Generally I think of “heroic” as something characterizing a single brave act (often a lifesaving one), and I’m having trouble thinking of anything I’ve witnessed that qualifies.
    I was watching excerpts last night of Jimmy Carter’s press conference and was reminded of all of the humanitarian work he’s done in his post-presidency. Not sure if that counts as “heroic” per se, but it’s pretty damn commendable.

  • My father was in the military so I grew up all over. We lived in Oklahoma City when the bombing happened, and since that was before cell phones were prevalent, we had no way of contacting my father (he was scheduled to be in the building at the time it happened). My mom loaded my brother and myself into the car and drove there, where we found my dad, injured, pulling children out of the wreckage from the daycare center that had been in the building. He most certainly was not the only hero that day but that’s stuck with me.
    He then had the assignment of being on McVeigh’s guard detail to and from the jail/trial which he did without complaint.

  • When I was teaching as a grad student one of our fellow grad student teachers was teaching her class outside. Some random crazy dude walked up to her class while she was teaching and threatened her with a knife. She’s a very calm individual…and she talked the knife out of his hands.

    She let class go early. 🙂

  • I used to work at an elementary school in New Jersey. One day, right after arrival time when everyone was heading to their classrooms or already there, a student’s dad came into the courtyard out front to ambush his recent ex-wife, the kid’s mom. He stabbed her repeatedly, but the principal and the guidance counselor went out together to intervene. Amazingly, they were able to get the woman away from him and into the hands of the school nurse. The principal and the guidance counselor continued to work together to disarm and subdue the attacker. Once they managed to lay him out, one of them actually sat on the guy until the cops came. This is all feet from the door to a school full of children and teachers. No one was injured except for his intended target, but she survived and as far as I know she has recovered. It was a miracle the guy had a knife instead of a gun, and the actions of the principal, the guidance counselor, and the school nurse who kept that mother alive were heroic.

  • I was on a connecting train to Santa Barbara last July and I saw a woman get seriously injured waitng in line for a snack. I’m not sure what caused the injury but there was a lot of blood and the woman was unconscious. Until young man in a navy white dress uniform called out that he was trained medically and he jumped into action callin for a medical kit and reviving her. He told one of the people watching to go get his friend who was sitting in another car. When his friend showed up they both put a tourniquet on the injured woman’s leg and talking to her about unrelated topics and calming her down. As they returned to their seats I asked to buy them a beer but the one in the uniform denied and explained they were some kind of naval seaman cadets or something like that and that they were both 16 and were just trying to get home from some kind of training at the Marine base. I was so amazed that a couple kids would leap into action to help another injured person. That really restored my faith in this generation that there are kids like that. I wish I had gotten their names. They really should have gotten some kind of award for their actions that night. I think they were Naval Cadets of the Sea or something like that.

    How would I go about tracking down those kids and seeing that they get commended for their actions?

Comments are closed.