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Steven Maida, Erik Bertrand, and Ryan Ballard were three regular community college students going to class on a regular old Tuesday morning. The sad truth is that when you set up any story with "a regular morning at a regular school," anyone who's watched the news can fill in what's going to happen next.
*Sigh* ... Just once.
Twenty-year-old Dylan Quick also went to Lone Star Community College, but he wasn't what you'd call "regular." Unless you consider fantasizing about cannibalism, necrophilia, and cutting off faces and wearing them as masks "regular." Quick was a few cards short of a full deck, assuming the deck represents mental wellness in this scenario. And one day, he went on a stabbing rampage.
On the morning of April 9, 2013, Ballard was walking to biology class when he noticed a few splatters of blood on the stairs, first in small drops, then in puddles. And that was when he realized the people around him were screaming and running like chickens with their heads cut off, which wasn't a very bad analogy, he later found out. Seconds later, he saw the first stabbing victim -- a girl who'd been knifed in the cheek. Then he heard someone yell "Stop that guy!" and everything clicked. It had only been about 10 seconds from the moment he noticed the blood to the moment he realized he was about to go full hero.
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"BY THE POWER OF PUNCH-SKULL!"
Maybe the story goes this way because it's Texas and everyone there secretly thinks they're a badass cowboy, but Ballard was only one of three students who tackled and stopped Quick, who had already stabbed 14 people in the face and neck by this point. To truly appreciate how ordinary these heroes were, you have to read how Maida, or Cheesin365, framed the story on Instagram:
Making this one of the rare occasions where "cops suck" was immediately followed by "I can do better."
Then he posted a picture of himself in the back of a cop car as evidence that he was telling the truth:
Then he tweeted stuff like:
So the next time you judge young punks for writing ridiculous status updates and tweets, just know one of those guys might stand between you and a knife in the face.
Dennis Soules was an addiction counselor visiting a friend who was in danger of relapse. Of course, when you're trying to help a non-celebrity drug addict friend out of a tough time, you're going to find yourself in a less than glamorous environment. And that was how Soules ended up at the White Towers Motel, the scene of a disaster and/or comedy of errors.
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There's no way you make it through the rest of this entry without "Yakety Sax" popping into your head.
Soules was with his troubled friend when he heard a cry for help from the floor above. Not a metaphorical cry for help, a real one. And the cry sounded suspiciously like a kid or a very advanced cat. Either way, Soules bolted upstairs. There he found a man in his underwear trying to put out a mattress fire with cups of water while his two children huddled by the open door in fear. Soules later found out that the mattress was on fire because a baby bottle had rolled under the bed and numbnuts had the brilliant idea to use a lighter to find it.
"Can't reach it ... maybe I can knock it out from under there with my trusty gas can."
Soules scooped up the kids and got them down the hall. Then he found the nearest fire extinguisher and rushed back to the room to help. Only he couldn't, because the extinguisher didn't work. Soules ran to the front desk to retrieve a replacement; once he got back to the fire, he hit the trigger ... and found that the second extinguisher was also unable to perform its only function.
By then, the fire had spread beyond even a broken fire extinguisher's ability to pretend kill it. Soules put the kids in his coat and carried them out of the motel. When they were safe, he returned to the room to retrieve the father and other guests who still hadn't left their flaming home because they were packing up their belongings. While some of us would have said "screw it" and let them spend their last moments filling their garbage bags with bongs and Bob Marley posters, Soules insisted that the residents leave the smoke-filled building.
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It marked the first time a Canadian had raised his voice in 17 years.
Once everyone was safely outside, including the scantily clad father, Soules drove to a department store to buy the idiot who'd started the fire some damned clothes.
Didar Hossain was a garment worker earning about $68 a month in Bangladesh. Opposite his factory was Rana Plaza, an eight-story commercial structure that housed shops, offices, a bank, and, unfortunately, another garment factory at the top of the building.
Satan's Jenga, if you will.
We say "unfortunately" because it was later revealed that Rana Plaza was never meant to hold heavy manufacturing equipment, certainly not on the top four floors, which were built without permits. It was like putting a factory on top of a tree house, except tree houses have the benefit of a strong root system. Rana Plaza had so many cracks that inspectors wanted the building shut down. The owners of the factory said "No thanks" and told workers they'd lose their jobs if they didn't come to work. So far, so awful, right? It gets worse.
Rana Plaza collapsed on April 24, 2013. According to Hossain, the building went from eight stories to three, with thousands of people trapped inside. Like everyone else on this list, Hossain wasn't content to hang out in the safety of his not-collapsed building while others were suffering. So even though the security guard tried to keep him and the other workers in the building, Hossain pushed him aside to get to life saving.
We repeat: He was fighting to get into this "building."
He had no idea he was walking into the most horrific building disaster since the World Trade Center bombings. By the time the "rescue" effort was over, the death toll was over 1,100 people, some of them already dead when Hossain started helping out. So picture smoke, dust, screaming, mangled metal, and corpses everywhere, and then try to imagine yourself not backing out and walking away from what we should presume hell will be like. Hossain went forward, even though rescuing the ones who were still alive meant getting them out from between stacks of building stories.
Hossain pulled survivors out, one after another. On Day 2 of his efforts, he found a little girl with a trapped hand. For five whole hours he stayed with her, trying to get her out. Finally, they both admitted the only way to free her from the rubble was to cut off her hand. Still with us? Hossain left the building to get help, obviously. But the one doctor he found in the crowd outside wasn't interested in walking into a death trap, so he handed Hossain a knife and some anesthetic and said "Good luck!"
How easy would it have been to just pretend like that conversation never happened? Or to dig deeper into the crowd for another few hours in the hopes that anybody else would step forward? Hossain didn't give himself the option. He went back to the girl and did emergency surgery while they both screamed and cried at the same time. Then he tied off her wound and got her out. This is her:
"My phantom limb is giving the bird to everyone involved with that building."
Again, most of us would have said "Yep, I've done more than my part" and gone home to start our PTSD therapy. But Hossain kept going, eventually pulling 34 people out of the rubble, and performing TWO MORE amputations in the process.
Later, after all this horrible shit, Hossain would visit the girl in the hospital. And the first thing he did was apologize for not being able to save her hand. Then we assume the heavens opened up and Hossain ascended to join the ranks of angels, or at least ask them where the hell they were that day.
Paul K Pickett can be contacted at email@example.com. Or you can become a better person by visiting his friend's website (http://international-justice.com) to learn about human rights and international justice.
Related Reading: Looking for more nobodies who came through in the clutch? Click here to read about the random kid who filled in for Keith Moon when he passed out during a Who concert. Next, read about the window cleaner who stops suicides as a side job. And if you're more interested in the unknown heroes who save your life each day, this article will acquaint you with Norman Borlaug, the man whose disease-resistant crops have saved more than a billion people.