For some people, saving lives is just part of their job description. For others, holding the door for a fellow human being is an accomplishment worthy of Mariah Carey's 1993 classic "Hero" and a 21-gun salute. The people on this list fall into a third category. They're the ones who went above and beyond, sometimes sacrificing themselves in the process.
#6. Police Officer Prevents Hundreds from Jumping Off the Golden Gate Bridge
We know what you're thinking. "This guy's a cop, isn't that what he gets paid for?" OK, how many cops dedicate their time to painstakingly listening to people's darkest troubles for hours at a time, all to prevent them from killing themselves? And how many of those cops have done this hundreds of times? Only one: California Highway Patrolman Kevin Briggs.
Either this guy gets off on the smell of suicidal despair, or he really is a genuine hero.
For 22 years, Briggs has patrolled Marin County's highways, and part of his beat includes the Golden Gate Bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge is famous for two things: letting you know that Full House was based in San Francisco, and being the top suicide destination in the U.S. We're not sure if those two facts are related.
Have you ever been so good at a job that your co-workers call you in on your day off? Briggs is that good, too, only when he comes in to work, it's to keep someone from jumping to their death off a bridge. Briggs estimates that about twice a month he talks someone out of jumping -- so every 14 days or so he's going through a life or death emotional roller coaster.
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Twice as tough as an emotional monthly cycle (lycanthropy).
So what does he say that's so magical? Getting the other person talking about things they have to live for helps. And if that doesn't work, Briggs can bring up the time that he beat cancer (because of course he did). In his 22 years on the force, only one (ONE) person has jumped on Briggs' watch. Not even Batman can boast that kind of success rate. Briggs' tireless efforts have earned him the nickname "Guardian of the Golden Gate."
And if you're not feeling good about humanity yet, keep reading. In 2005, someone snapped a shot of Briggs talking to Kevin Berthia. Hands in his pockets, head down, feet teetering on the edge -- this 22-year-old new dad was done with life. Briggs talked Berthia into giving the world one more chance. Eight years later, Berthia was not only still alive, but on hand to thank Briggs in person for saving his life.
Berthia fathered two children after the suicide attempt. One will cure all cancers; the other, AIDS.
Personally, we would have picked a different background picture, but whatever. It's still a happy ending.
#5. British Spy Saves Thousands of Jews During the Holocaust
Quick: Who saved the most Jews during the Holocaust? If you said Oskar Schindler, then we are actually a little proud that our readers took a break from perusing Cracked long enough to watch a meaningful and artistic film. Oh, and you're also totally wrong. Schindler saved about 1,200 Jews, and don't get us wrong, it was a very brave and caring act. But a British spy has him beat by about 9,000.
Legend has it that he smuggled at least five families out in his eyebrows.
His name was Frank Foley (not exactly the coolest and most exotic name for a British spy). But he must have had a really cool undercover gig, right? Like he beat the Nazis at poker to win the Jews' freedom or something? Actually, his cover was a boring desk job: working as a passport officer for the British Embassy in Berlin. But being a passport officer was actually perfect. Foley was fully aware of the Jews' treatment by the Germans and didn't care for it one bit, so he began to forge passports and tweak visas so Jews could get to anywhere that wasn't under Hitler's rule. He even entered concentration camps to issue visas and travel documents to whoever he could save. And all these shenanigans were done without diplomatic immunity.
It was more intense than even the craziest border control agent video game.
In the end, it's estimated that Foley saved upwards of 10,000 Jews from certain death. So where's his Oscar-winning movie? Well, very few people knew who had helped them escape, and those who did kept their mouths shut so they wouldn't get deported back to the country that just tried to kill them. Not to mention that what Foley did was illegal, and being a spy meant his missions were confidential. So Foley's story remained quiet for the rest of his days, and he wasn't acknowledged by the British government for this bravery until 2004, almost 50 years after his death.
#4. Engineers on the Titanic Sacrificed Themselves to Allow More People to Escape
The 1997 James Cameron movie about the Titanic (we don't remember the title) makes a big deal about the band that kept playing as the boat sank. But while the orchestra was playing "Alexander's Ragtime Band" or "My Baby's Got the Cholera" or whatever else people played in 1912, you might have noticed that the lifeboats were lowered by electrical winches, and the interior lights stayed on for an awful long time for a boat that was going vertical. Unless the Titanic had the longest extension cord in history, the credit for all that electricity goes to the engineers.
Or else black, flooded corridors would have claimed everyone. An even bigger tragedy, but arguably a cooler movie.
Yes, the same engineers that Cameron shows for about a minute when the iceberg hits and barely shows again when the water finally shorts out the power -- they're the real heroes of the whole shebang. While everyone else was trying to get the hell off the ship, the engineers and the boiler room guys kept working, eventually giving the Titanic 45 more minutes of light and power so more than 700 people could find their way out.
Meanwhile, you're praying for 45 more minutes of battery time because you're too lazy to get the power cord across the room.
Oh, and like their musician friends up top, all the power guys went down with the ship. We can't fully blame James Cameron for not being able to squeeze that minor detail in. It's not like the movie was three goddamned hours long or anything.