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When we think about heroes, we tend to picture firefighters or soldiers or adults who dress up in bat costumes and punch sewer-dwelling crocodile men. But in a world plagued by the constant threat of horrible catastrophes both natural and man-made, sometimes the only people who can step up to save the day aren't even old enough to drive.

6
Six-Year-Old Saves His Little Brother from a Cougar

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Bryce Forbes, a 6-year-old boy from British Columbia, was headed outside to his garage one day when he ran into a wild cougar, just out there waiting for him, because this is apparently the kind of shit you have to deal with in British Columbia. Either that or his parents seriously mixed up some telephone numbers when they called for a sitter.

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"Could you send a MILF instead? At least they have experience with kids."

Anyway, rather than flee into the house and never come back outside ever again like a sensible child, Bryce ran past the cougar to grab his younger brother, Tucker, who was playing just beyond the child-feasting mountain lion in the backyard, presumably wearing a sensory-deprivation helmet that prevented him from noticing the large predatory cat prowling alongside their parents' Chrysler.

After running the 40 or 50 feet to grab Tucker, Bryce dragged the younger boy upstairs into a room above the garage (once again, past a freaking cougar that was actively stalking them) and called his parents, who were understandably a bit skeptical at first to hear their son babbling some nonsense about lions roaming around on their property. When they took a look outside, however, they discovered the mountain lion was all too real, so they immediately got on the phone and called for professional emergency assistance. What arrived instead were the Mounties, who assessed the situation and shot the cougar dead, because damn that.

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Rescuing damsels and putting monstrous predators in the cold ground since 1873.

A posthumous examination found that the animal, while technically full-grown, had actually been undersized for its age. That means that Bryce didn't just put himself in harm's way to save his brother from a lion -- he did it to save his brother from a hungry lion.

5
Twelve-Year-Old Kicks a Door Down to Save Siblings from a House Fire

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Justin Jackson's parents went out for the night and left him in charge of his younger brothers and sister, because 12 is totally old enough to be responsible for your entire family, and Happy Hour at Chili's isn't going to drink itself. When a thunderstorm knocked out the power to their house, Justin gathered his siblings together around a lit candle until they realized how boring life is without Xbox and decided to give up and go to bed.

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Childlike whimsy is a poor substitute for sweet, sweet Halo.

But sometime later, Justin woke up to find the curtains engulfed in flames, because this is what happens when you leave a 12-year-old in charge of your house. To be fair, it is unclear whether the fire was started by candles or a lightning strike, but lightning generally doesn't strike drapery unless it is made of tinfoil and dangling off the side of a radio tower. Regardless, Justin knew there was no time to lose and quickly ushered his brothers outside, where he started banging on his neighbors' doors to get help. Nobody responded, because frantic door-knocking at 2 a.m. is something people in suburban America tend to investigate with terrified silence and/or a shotgun.

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Which is why the Jehovah's Witnesses started calling it a day after 6.

When no help came, Justin was forced to rush back inside the house (which, as you may recall, was on fire) to try to find his sister, who hadn't made it out yet. He found her trapped in her bedroom behind a door that wouldn't budge, so Justin, channeling all of the Patrick Swayze he could muster, spin-kicked the goddamned door down and carried her outside to safety.

But Justin still wasn't finished. Now that his brothers and sister were safe, he ran back inside the house for a third time to call 911, since it was clear he couldn't rely on the adults in his neighborhood to do a fucking thing. The house burned to the ground, but everyone escaped unhurt, and Justin Jackson can look forward to a long career of someone making a Backdraft reference every time he walks into a room.

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4
Fifteen-Year-Old Girl Takes a Bullet for a Baby

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Sarah Rivera, age 15, was walking to the store on a relatively quiet Saturday when her Bronx neighborhood suddenly erupted with gunfire. Sarah looked up and saw a determined young lunatic shooting randomly into the street like he was being haunted by winged leprechauns. Among the hapless pedestrians in the man's line of fire was a freaking stroller-bound infant, who had been abandoned by her father in his desperation to escape. Because let's be honest -- when you're scrambling for cover in a storm of bullets, a baby carriage is a liability.

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Unless you're willing to entertain some alternative parenting tactics.

Not stopping to think about the fact that running toward gunfire is usually the opposite of what most personal safety classes would instruct you to do in this situation, Sarah made a beeline for the stroller and shoved the defenseless child out of the way. She caught a bullet in the upper thigh for her effort, but considering thighs are more or less at stroller height, she almost certainly spared the baby from an unwanted serving of lead salad.

The gunman, presumably deciding that he'd proven his point, finished his rampage and ran the hell away, because having to explain to the police why you suddenly opened fire on a baby carriage is an unenviable position to be in. Once the coast was clear and people began crawling out from their hiding places, someone fashioned a tourniquet for Sarah and got her to the hospital, where she quickly recovered. It is unclear whether she went back to the store to get what she'd gone out to buy in the first place, or if she just decided to let that shit go.

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"Well I don't need it now!"

3
Eight-Year-Old Saves His Sister's Life More Than 20 Times

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Eight-year-old Harry Flynn's little sister Isabelle has a terrifying medical condition. She was born too early and suffers from apnea of prematurity, a problem that causes her to just stop breathing virtually at random. Since breathing is considered a critical function of the human body, this makes spending any length of time around Isabelle a terrifying chess game against the eternal shadow of death. So, doctors gave the Flynns a device that sends out an alarm whenever Isabelle's lungs decide to stop working, in an effort to make their lives marginally less tense than a never-ending episode of Game of Thrones.

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And hopefully with a much higher survival rate.

Unfortunately, Isabelle's periods of distress tend to strike when everyone is asleep, so the alarm usually finds itself ringing to deaf ears (evidently making the alarm louder is beyond the realm of possibility). Luckily, young Harry is a light sleeper. Despite being only 8, an age at which most of us still believed Superman was a real person, Harry has been through Red Cross training and knows how to perform the life-saving CPR that his sister needs to start breathing again. He's basically an expert at it by now, because he's had to do it over 20 times. Again, making that alarm louder must require the use of a diamond-powered laser beam or unicorn dust, because there's literally no other reason to make a little boy perform CPR on his sister that many times before the age of 10.

The first time Harry resuscitated Isabelle, he was only 7. Realizing the wisdom in making sure he wasn't the only one in the house qualified to come to Isabelle's aid, he decided to train his other sister, Molly (who is 5), how to do CPR as well, because holy shit. His parents are apparently goddamned grizzly bears that just hibernate for months at a time.

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On your way back from CPR class, could you pick up some salmon? Attaboy, sport.

Doctors don't believe Isabelle's condition is permanent, and expect her to eventually make a full recovery if for no other reason than she's been stealing her brother's breath like the troll from Cat's Eye for the past several years.

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2
Ten-Year-Old Catches Baby Thrown Out of a Burning Building

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Ten-year-old Zna Gresham of Atlanta was enjoying a typical summer day when her apartment building suddenly burst into flames. Being on fire tends to take all of the free-spirited whimsy out of one's summer vacation (unless you limit it to a few seconds at a time), so Zna ran straight outside. As she and the rest of her neighbors gathered out front, it quickly became apparent that not everyone had made it out of the building. One tenant was still trapped inside on the second floor with her three children, one of whom was only 1 month old.

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When push comes to shove, we imagine those onesies are a lot less flame resistant than advertised.

The smoke from the fire on the first floor was rising so quickly that the hallways were completely impassable. Desperate to save her kids, the panicked mother flung open a window and just started heaving them out like buckets of water from a sinking ship. The two older kids, age 2 and 3, hit the ground like toddler-sized sacks of potatoes. They were a little banged up, but more or less OK. This probably wasn't going to be the case for the 1-month-old. As the woman began dangling her baby out the window like the King of Pop, Zna realized shit was about to get real.

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Pictured: Shit.

Zna positioned herself beneath the window just as the woman released the infant to the 20-foot drop, and snatched the newborn out of the air like a Super Bowl MVP. The baby came out of the fall completely uninjured. Zna tried to downplay her role in saving the child, insisting that everyone in the building played a part, but that's bullshit. We didn't see any of them plucking an airborne baby out of the sky like a benevolent falcon.

1
Four-Year-Old Scolds a Terrorist into Letting His Family Go

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In September 2013, Islamic terrorists laid siege to a mall in Kenya, trapping hundreds of hostages inside to be indiscriminately massacred. As the tragedy unfolded, armed security services made their way inside with Red Cross workers to comb the building looking for survivors. Some of the rescuers were civilians carrying their own weapons. It was a horrific situation, but regular, blue-collar people responded to the crisis with selfless heroism.

And they all look like a bunch of chumps compared to a 4-year-old boy named Elliott Prior.

Reuters, via Stuff
When you've got nerves made of collapsed star, you can snivel whenever you damn well please.

You see, when the terrorists took over Westgate shopping mall, Elliott's mother was shot in the thigh. Thanks to either sheer naivete or his volatile toddler's temper, Elliott didn't give one twisted shit about how scary the terrorists were -- as far as he was concerned, they could spend the rest of the day feeding their guns to their own assholes. So the tiny British child confronted the gun-wielding terrorist and flipped the hell out, screaming at him for being "a bad man" and demanding that he and his family be allowed to leave.

The terrorist, having just been reprimanded by someone not yet old enough to go to kindergarten, apparently felt his heart grow four sizes that day. The embarrassed gunman gave Elliott and his sister some candy bars and agreed to let his family go. On their way out of the mall, Elliott's mom managed to grab two more children and pull them to safety.

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"Yeah, thanks, whatever. I was told there would be candy ..."

As they left, the terrorist yelled some halfhearted apology, explaining that he and his compatriots were only there to kill Kenyan and American civilians (small British children weren't on their hit list, for whatever reason). That's right -- Elliott was so hardcore that he confronted an armed man with the specific agenda of murdering as many defenseless people as he could, got him to apologize, and walked away with free candy. We imagine that was the sweetest candy he's ever tasted.

Aaron Granger is a chemist and likes to write about science projects in his spare time. He updates his website, Impractical Science, roughly whenever.

For more superhero antics, check out If The Hero's Timing Had Been Slightly Off and If Superheroes Were Assholes.

Related Reading: Kids don't get enough credit, as John Cheese illustrates in this column on arguments parents can't admit kids are right about. Some children are just shockingly powerful, like these wonder twins of terrorism. For some of the creepiest things kids have ever been asked to color, click here.

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