5 Heroic Sacrifices By Real-Life Action Heroes

Get on this, Hollywood.
5 Heroic Sacrifices By Real-Life Action Heroes

Do you want to die in a blaze of glory, using your final act to save your loved ones? Shit, I don't. I want to live forever, and if some loved ones need saving, well, I'll try to figure out how to do that without dying. Life is meant to be lived, not played out as dramatically as possible for some imaginary audience's entertainment. But it sure seems that imaginary audience gets a kick out of what happens to us. Because sometimes real people give up their lives as selflessly and as unbelievably as in the craziest Hollywood film. Like how ...

A Train Brakeman Saved An Entire Town

You've seen it in the movies: A bomb's about to go off, so the hero manually pilots it far away, even though it's probably a one-way trip. In Captain America, Steve could have bailed out of that plane instead of going down with it. Other Steve could have in Wonder Woman, too. In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman actually does bail out, and it's surprising when this is revealed, because we're so used to movie heroes dying in this senseless manner. In The Avengers, Tony must escort a missile through a wormhole, and that's a nonsense situation -- there's no reason the people who shot the missile couldn't have aimed it up the wormhole themselves.

And yet this has happened in real life. Let's travel back to 1907, to the Pilares copper mines outside Nacozari, Mexico. To burrow deep into these mines, people needed a whole lot of explosive force, and this came in the form of dynamite and blasting powder, which was delivered by train. One such train was chugging its way to the mines on schedule on November 7, with the only problem being that the roof had somehow caught fire.

The train probably should have had some measures in place to prevent that from happening, and definitely should have had some means for putting out fires once they start, but the engineer on this day had just one instruction for the crew: "Jump for your lives!" Everyone obeyed except for the brakeman, who realized that letting the train roll into a population center and explode wasn't the ideal solution to this particular trolley problem.

So the brakeman stayed aboard. He threw open the throttle to get the locomotive moving as fast and as far as possible. When the fire reached the powder and the train blew up, he wasn't totally out in the wilderness, and the ensuing destruction of some barracks did kill a dozen or so laborers. But the explosion, which was big enough to shatter every window in town, was far enough away that he'd saved hundreds of lives. Then again, of course this guy was ready to lay his life down to save others. His name was Jesus Garcia. Jesus. (Pronounced differently, but still.)

Related: 6 Normal People Who Turned Into Action Heroes Out Of Nowhere

A Man Saved His Wife From A Sinking Ship

When the cruise ship Costa Concordia set sail in early 2012, Captain Francesco joked that he wouldn't want to be the captain of the Titanic. That was the start of the foreshadowing. One passenger was the descendant of two people who'd sailed aboard Titanic (two unrelated people -- one survived the sinking, and one didn't). The band over dinner played "My Heart Will Go On," and it was while this was happening that the ship hit a reef. The ultimate result:

Roberto Vongher/Wikimedia Commons

They crashed because the captain was trying to impress his girlfriend, and thanks to that same kind of incompetence, the ship had skipped on the traditional disaster drills, and thus delayed any kind of evacuation. It took a full-fledged mutiny from the crew to overrule the captain and start filling the lifeboats. In the meantime, some passengers assessed the danger themselves and abandoned ship. Among them were a married couple, 60-year-old Nicole Servel and 71-year-old Francis. Francis had a life jacket, but Nicole did not. He handed his to her. Then, when Nicole still seemed reluctant to jump, he jumped first. Sans life jacket.

Typical Hollywood theatrics. How could they not have enough life jackets for everyone? Even airplanes manage to give each passenger their own life jacket, despite space being so scarce that they don't have enough room for legs. A giant cruise ship should be able to stock a hundred life jackets for each person. And, well, maybe this ship did. But the whole evacuation process was a shitshow, so passengers were scrambling and hurrying into desperate acts they never should have had to contemplate.

Francis drowned. Nicole jumped after him and lived, though she wasn't picked up by the lifeboats which ended up carrying away most of the surviving passengers. Instead her life jacket kept her afloat, and she drifted all the way to Isola del Giglio in Tuscany. There the locals helped her out of the water and got her into a church so she could warm up. News reports don't say whether for a brief period after, they made her their chief, but I'm not ready to rule anything out.

Related: History's 26 Most Incredible Heroes That You Never Heard Of

Flight Attendants Saved Passengers From Terrorists

In 1986, Pan Am Flight 73 was supposed to take off from Bombay and land in New York. Instead, during a stopover in Karachi, a police van approached with siren blaring. Five uniformed members of the Airport Security Force boarded the plane to announce that whoops, they weren't actually members of the Airport Security Force. They were terrorists who planned to crash the plane into a building.

The flight never left the ground. The pilots slipped out through the cockpit escape hatch, which is a thing that exists. This left the hijackers with Plan B: Keep all 400 passengers aboard as hostages until they could figure out what Plan C was. One hijacker, deciding this called for some stagecraft, took to patrolling the plane stripped to the waist with a string of grenades across his chest. Then the murders began. The terrorists ordered flight attendants to collect everyone's passports so they could round up the Americans. They ended up killing every one they identified.

Which wasn't that many. Because every time the attendants collected an American passport, they hid it under a seat or dumped it in the garbage. Finally, 17 hours into the standoff, authorities stormed the aircraft, and the hijackers resorted to just killing everyone. The attendants opened the exit doors and started getting passengers out. The rest of the crew evacuated, but these stayed behind to help as many passengers escape as possible. One, Neerja Bhanot, died. Some people check out of their jobs. Some stay and do it 'til the end.

Related: 6 Awesome Stories Of Bystanders Becoming Heroes

A Noble Firefighter Straight Out Of A Disaster Film

If you have 30 seconds to waste, here's the teaser trailer for a 10-year-old Roland Emmerich movie:

We see a monk running over a mountain path to a monastery in the Himalayas. He rings a giant bell, raising the alarm for some unspecified danger. Then we see the danger: a rising wave so big that it climbs over the highest mountains in the world. The monk keeps ringing stoically as the wave destroys the building with him inside it. It's a good trailer. In fact, it's a better film than the movie it advertises.

Anyway, that actually happened.

No, really. In March 11, 2011, eastern Japan was thoroughly shaken by one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded. But it was Tohoku's follow-up tsunami, an inevitable consequence of underwater earthquakes, that was responsible for some the worst effects, from the Fukushima meltdown to a fair chunk of the 20,000-person death toll.

Fujio Koshita was a firefighter in the village of Otsuchi, which had a system for warning people of tsunamis. It involved an alarm on top of the fire station blaring loudly and telling everyone to flee for higher ground before the wave came in. But when Koshita bolted into the station building to turn the alarm on, he found that he couldn't -- the quake had knocked out the power. So he retrieved a giant bell from storage, hauled it up to the roof, and rang. People heard and ran.

Koshita was 57. A younger firefighter made it to station as well, but Koshita dismissed him, telling him to leave and save himself. The water came in and reduced the building to splinters. A few days earlier, Koshita had given a speech to the station about how one shouldn't sacrifice themselves, but when his own life was on the line, that view seemed to change. But then again, his body was never found, so there's always the possibility that when Tohoku II hits, he'll just up and reappear, bell in one hand, triumphant middle finger to nature in the other.

Related: 6 Nobodies Who Turned Into Superheroes Without Warning

An 18 Year-Old Rescued Dozens Of Stranded People

Typhoon Ketsana hit the Philippines in 2009, causing $1 billion in damage and killing 700 people. When Muelmar Magallanes realized the river was overflowing its banks, he started evacuating his family. He tied a rope around his waist and to one sibling, descended into the flooded street, brought them to higher ground, then returned for the next.

With all of them safe, the 18-year-old went back for his parents. Then he figured, hey, neighbors need saving as well. Tying them to his waist and ferrying them to somewhere high and dry is just the neighborly thing to do. He roped them up and rescued them one by one. Soon he'd personally ferried over 30 people to safety.

Then he saw a woman and her six-month-old baby trying to float on a Styrofoam box. He got to them right as their makeshift raft went under, and he towed them to safety too. At this point he was absolutely exhausted. So he just sort of let go, drifted away in the current, and died.

If this particular scene showed up in a movie, you'd throw your drink at the screen and hike up to yell at the projectionist. People shouldn't die simply because their role in the action is done. The dude deserved a happy ending! But life's not like in the movies. It's much stupider and far more cruel, and the special effects aren't even that good.

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for bits cut from this article and other stuff no one should see.

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