It is safe to say that nothing is more courageous than self-sacrifice for the sake of others’ lives. However, we frequently come across this degree of heroism only in folktales, sentimental movies, and fictional dramas. Reality may have rare life sacrifices but we don’t always hear about the bravery of such acts. To remind and admire these golden episodes, here is a list of 10 stories of life sacrifices that are truly sentimental.
1. Liviu Librescu was a Romanian-born Israeli and American scientist, engineer, professor, teacher, and Holocaust survivor. During the Virginia Tech School shooting in 2007, he barricaded the door of his classroom while the attacker was firing through the door. He sacrificed his life saving 22 out of his 23 students.
Librescu and his students were in the Norris Hall when the attackers showed up on the morning of 16 April 2007.
The students reported the incident in detail later on that event. The professor was teaching mechanics when Sueng-Hui Cho, a 23-year-old gunman, started firing. Along with Librescu, Cho murdered 31 more people during the same incident.
The students heard gunshots, and the professor just blocked the door of the room since it didn’t have any way to lock it from the inside.
Cho fired a semi-automatic pistol through the door and the elderly professor took all the bullets. The 76-year-old professor stood bravely so that he could buy time for his students to escape from the window.
Librescu was born in 1930, and he suffered like millions of other European Jews during these times. Nonetheless, he had a rich academic career and he taught at the Virginia Tech School for 20 years. (1, 2)
2. In 1965, a Harvard student and seminarian, Jonathan Daniels, was in Alabama to participate in the civil rights movement. He was walking with his two Black friends when a deputy aimed his shotgun at one of them. Daniels dived in front of Ruby Sales, his Black friend, and took the shotgun blast so that she could live.
Daniels traveled to Alabama to take part in the Selma to Montgomery March, and he also joined African American community there.
On 22 August, Daniels just had just been released from the county jail. Richard Morrisroe, a Catholic priest, and two Black teenagers, Joyce Bailey and Ruby Sales, accompanied him to buy soda.
Just then, a part-time deputy sheriff and construction worker, Tom Coleman, encountered them and pointed his shotgun towards Ruby. Daniels pushed the 16-year-old to the ground and took the blast. He died instantly.
The great Martin Luthur King Jr. acknowledged and appreciated Daniels’ heroic act.
After this, two books and a 1999 documentary featured the tragedy.
In 1997, the VMI boards of Visitors established an award called “Jonathan Daniels ’61 Humanitarian Award.” It recognizes individuals who make a mark in selfless acts and personal sacrifices for the protection or improvement of others’ lives. (1, 2)
3. Vince Coleman was a railway dispatcher who sacrificed himself to warn an incoming train of an imminent explosion. The last message of his telegraph said, “Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier Six and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye, boys.” This self-sacrificing act done on 6 December 1917 saved 700 lives.
The misfortune saw two ships, a Norwegian vessel and a French cargo vessel, colliding in Halifax Harbor. The collision created a huge fire, and one of the ships had explosives in it.
Coleman first tried his best to clear people away from the area. After that, he went back to his office to leave a telegraph to the train which was about to encounter the collision. He was successful in stopping the train carrying 700 people but couldn’t get away from the place himself.
Coleman’s telegraph helped in relaying the message and gather help at the place of collision.
The explosion was so heavy that the people looking out of their windows were blinded when their glasses shattered. The accident claimed 2,000 lives and injured 9,000. (Source)
4. Nazis imprisoned Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest, in Auschwitz Concentration Camp. In 1941, the camp guards sentenced a man who was a complete stranger to Father Kolbe to death, and the priest volunteered to take his place. The lucky man survived the concentration camp and lived for 94 years until 1995.
Kolbe was the founder of a worldwide evangelization movement, Militia Immaculate, and was a missionary in Japan during the 1930s.
The Germans arrested him in 1941 for helping Jews and held him in Warsaw. Then they transported the priest to the Auschwitz death camp. There, he was assigned humiliating jobs until July 1941 when an inmate escaped the prison.
To stop the prisoners from attempting further escapes, the guards picked out 10 men and sentenced them to starvation and death. In one of the 10 unfortunates, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried for his wife and children in vain.
Kolbe stepped forward offering himself in self-sacrifice to take Gajowniczek’s place, and the deputy commander accepted it. Killing a 47-year Catholic priest was a good offer for the commander.
The priest survived for two weeks in the starvation bunker without food and water and finally died on 14 August 1941.
5. In 2014, a suicide bomber was about to kill students gathered for the morning school assembly in Hangu district, Pakistan. The bomber was disguised in the school’s uniform. Aitazaz Hassan Bangash, a 14-year-old, tackled him at the school gate without caring about his life. The bomber panicked and detonated the bomb, and the struggle killed both of them.
Bangash, a ninth-grader, was on his way to the Ibrahimzai School with his friends and a cousin on 6 January.
The bomber approached the group, and he asked for the school’s address. Musadiq Bangash, Aitazaz’s cousin, and others grew suspicious of the stranger. Others backed off but Bangash tried to catch the culprit and engaged with him in a scuffle. The bomber set off the bomb and they both died immediately.
The brave kid’s sacrifice saved the lives of hundreds of Muslim students gathered for the assembly. The children at the school belonged to both Muslime sects, Shia and Sunni.
The district of Hangu shares a border with the tribal area, therefore, it is prone to frequent sectarian violence.