Since this is a website that focuses on the strange, let's give a little of that glory to some of the more unconventionally brave people out there. Turn on the David Bowie song “Heroes” as a soundtrack and read this list about some truly inspiring people who have done incredibly brave things with no thought of getting anything back in return.
1The Polish man who volunteered for Auschwitz
During World War II, millions of Jewish people and perceived enemies of the Nazis were sent to their deaths in concentration camps. Upon hearing about these atrocities, a 39-year-old veteran of the Polish-Soviet War and member of the resistance, Witold Pilecki, volunteered to be imprisoned at Auschwitz to secretly collect intelligence and then escape.
While in the concentration camp Pilecki was responsible for informing the Allies of the atrocities of Auschwitz and organizing a resistance movement.
In 1943, after three years in Auschwitz, Pilecki escaped. He took part in the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944 and served the London-based Polish government in exile, but was executed in 1948 by Stalin's police for “foreign imperialism.”
Pilecki's exploits were suppressed by the Communists for years and it wasn't until 1989 that the world heard of this heroic man and his bravery.
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2The three men who swam through Chernobyl's radioactive waters to stop a nuclear meltdown
While many perished, three clean-up volunteers – Alexi Ananenko, Valeri Bezpoalov and Boris Baronov – willingly met their fate.
During the well-documented disaster, a pool of water used for emergencies in case of a break in the cooling pumps or steam pipes became flooded with a highly radioactive liquid that was in danger of blowing up. These three men suited up in scuba gear and swam into the radioactive waters of the flooded chamber, knowing full well they would die as a result. They opened up a gate valve, which allowed the contaminated water to drain out.
Days after reaching the surface all three men succumbed to radiation poisoning and were buried in lead coffins. If not for the bravery of the “Chernobyl Suicide Squad” a thermal explosion would have taken place resulting in unfathomable disaster.
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3The teens who chased a carjacker in hopes of rescuing two children
The woman pleading for help was a 27-year-old mother of two young children, ages two and six. The mother – known only as “Inna” – and her mother were chatting outside of the vehicle while the toddlers remained in the car. Seemingly out of nowhere, a man pushed the women aside, hopped in the car and sped off.
Madril and Martinez took matters into their own hands and pursued the carjacker themselves. As Martinez drove, Madril called 911 and gave a blow-by-blow account to the police.
When the getaway car briefly stopped, the 6-year-old tumbled out. After arriving on the scene, police told the boys to stay back in case of gunfire and soon apprehended 34-year-old Tom Vallancourt. The carjacker ended up serving a 6 1/2-year sentence for kidnapping and auto theft.
The mayor of Tuscon and the Red Cross honored Madril and Martinez with a “Real Hero Award” while Inna gave the boys her eternal gratitude.
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4The bedridden quadriplegic who started a magazine and nonprofit to help people with disabilities
Johar was shot by three men demanding money during a home invasion robbery. He was rushed to the hospital where he and his family were devastated to learn that he would be forever paralyzed. One of the robber's bullets had irreparably damaged his spine.
Never one to feel sorry for himself, Johar learned to type using just two fingers and a thumb and started The Voice, a magazine that helped to create awareness for people with disabilities.
Johar then started a trust called Family of Disabled (FOD). FOD helps the physically challenged and the financially disadvantaged seek employment. He was especially proud when his daughter decided to work for FOD. She continues his good work to this day.
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5The boy who protected a rape victim while his home was burning
It was a cold January night in 2013 in the town of Shepherd, Michigan. Persyn was watching TV while his two younger siblings were playing in the living room. Their father, Angus Persyn Jr., had just left the house to pick up his fiance' who was working nearby.
What an exciting few moments those turned out to be! Right after his father left, James heard a loud banging at the door by a panicked woman. As the young boy later described, "Her voice was, like, she was going to die if I didn't open that door."
The woman was a student at Central Michigan University who had been raped by a 30-year-old ex-con, Eric Ramsey. She had clear packing tape wrapped around her body and was covered with bruises. James let her in and after she was safe inside he locked all the doors, turned out the lights, got a knife and took everyone to hide in the bathroom.
The rapist soon found out where his victim was hiding. Ramsey approached the house and shouted, “Let me in or I'll kill you.” James called his dad who in turn called 911.
Unable to get into the house, Ramsey doused it with gasoline, lit it on fire and left. Angus arrived home just in time and stopped the fire from spreading further.
The Persyns and the CMU student all ended up safe – the rapist who was shot and killed by police soon after.
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6The woman who led Burma in non-violent protest against a ruthless dictator
The daughter of liberation movement leader Aung San, Aung San Suu Ki spent years studying abroad. Upon her return she witnessed the appalling slaughter of protesters under the savage rule of the country's dictator, U Ne Win.
Suu Kyi led the opposition against the savage dictator and – along with Tin – was one of the founders of the National League for Democracy. She called for change by practicing non-violence, much like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Prize for peace in 1991. After being a political prisoner for almost 20 years, she was finally released in 2010. We tip our hats to you both, Suu Kyi and Win Tin!
So, let me get this straight, we practically see what Kim Kardashian had for lunch every night on TV, but has anyone seen any reports on Win Tin's recent death on the news?
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7The incredibly brave teachers who gave their lives to protect the students of Sandy Hook
On December 14, 2012, 26 people – 20 students and 6 adult staff members – were shot and killed at Sandy Hook in Newtown, CT.
A 27-year old teacher, Victoria Soto, sacrificed her life when she hid her students in a closet to protect them from crazed gunman Adam Lanza. When Lanza entered her classroom, she told him that the students were in the gym. The terrified kids started running from the closet and Lanza began shooting. Soto threw herself in front of the children and was killed. The last moments of her life were spent protecting her young students by using her body as a shield against bullets from the deranged madman's gun.
Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach sprung into action, but were killed when trying to keep Lanza from entering the building. Teacher Lauren Rousseau hid her students in the bathroom in her attempt to protect the children and also died while doing so.
District Superintendent Janet Robinson noted these and other "incredible acts of heroism" that "ultimately saved so many lives."
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8The neurologist who boiled his own penis in the name of science
In the early 1900s, neurologist Sir Henry Head experimented on himself in the name of science. Sir Henry conducted “a human experiment in nerve division." Frustrated with difficulties he encountered in testing sensory loss in patients with peripheral nerve injuries, he persuaded a colleague to divide two cutaneous nerves in his left forearm to study how sensations change when those cut nerves were left to regenerate. At the time, this was a considered a courageous act that was to earn him unsought publicity.
After operating on his own arm, Head even dipped his penis into extremely hot water in another nerve experiment. He concluded that the tip could feel no sensation of heat, but could still feel pain and cold. This is one case of truly having a lot of nerve, don't you think?
Hey, come to think of it, I've heard of Frank Zappa's Burnt Weenie Sandwich, but this is ridiculous! Anyway, we salute you, Sir Head!
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9The band who caused a riot at a Beatles convention
All over the world many people celebrate their love of The Beatles by attending Beatlefest. Beatlefest attendees watch films, meet “celebrities” associated with the Fab Four, buy Beatle merchandise and participate in playing music by the lads from Liverpool.
The 1988 Beatlefest at the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles proved to be a little different than the rest. On this occasion, a one-time “supergroup” called Tater Totz played (members included former teen idol Jimmy Jimmy McNichol on percussion, Redd Kross' Steve McDonald on bass, the late, great Bill Bartell – a.k.a. Pat Fear of White Flag – on guitar and Jennifer Schwartz from the classic cult film, Desperate Teenage Love Dolls on vocals.) Instead of doing a Beatles song at the 'fest's Battle Of The Bands competition, the Totz decided to perform Yoko Ono's infamous song, “Don't Worry, Kyoko.”
Beatle fans in the audience were not pleased and started to riot. The band was escorted off of the property for their safety by security.
The proceedings were recorded and released on vinyl. To this day, Live Hate At Beatlefest remains a classic. Well, at least by me.