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Heroic Sacrifice: Real L Ife
  • Zhenya Tabakov, a 7-year-old boy, who died while protecting his 12-year-old sister from a rapist.
  • A group Heroic Sacrifice - United Flight 93 on September 11th. After learning that three other planes had been used as weapons against thousands, passengers assaulted their hijackers, knowing it would probably lead to their deaths. It did, but countless lives were saved at wherever the intended target site was (according to captured al-Qaeda members, it was most likely the U.S. Capitol). Various cell phone calls to loved ones indicate that the passengers knew exactly what they were doing and there was no chance of surviving.
  • Prof. Liviu Librescu. During the Virginia Tech massacre, he held the door of his classroom shut, allowing most of his students escape. He was shot through the door five times before finally succumbing to a shot to the head.
  • Termite soldiers will go out of their mound in the event of a breach to hold off the enemy (usually ants) while the workers rebuild. Sealing the soldiers out.
  • The Port Arthur Massacre had more than one sadly failed attempts. Nanette Patricia Mikac knelt down before a mass murderer to die whilst asking him, simply, to spare her children (unsuccessfully). Carolyn Loughton threw herself on top of her daughter, but while she survived, her daughter did not. Brigid Cook began an impromptu evacuation of the site and whilst shot, survived. Neville Quin was shot in the neck and survived trying to reach his wife.
  • Colonel Yuri Gagarin died on March 27, 1968 when the MiG-15 he was piloting crashed near Moscow. He could have ejected safely from his failing craft, but chose to fly on past that point, because if he had ejected, the plane would have landed on a village killing everyone there.
    • Previously, Gagarin had tried to save his friend Vladimir Komarov's life by pulling one of these. The Soyuz 1 spacecraft was a poorly designed and completely doomed piece of junk that was only going to be launched due to pressure from the Politburo, and Gagarin knew it. Komarov was going to be the pilot, and Gagarin was his backup. Gagarin tried to use his clout to cancel the launch, and when that was unsuccessful, he tried to take Komarov's place. But the Politburo refused to allow a national hero on a flight they knew would not be two-way, and Komarov went up as planned. Almost every system on the craft began to fail almost immediately, and the mission was aborted. Unfortunately, the ship caught fire during re-entry and both the main parachute and reserve parachute failed to deploy properly, so Komarov hit the Earth without slowing down and was killed on impact.
  • Falling on a grenade.
  • Practically every posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor or similar awards.
    • The living recipients generally qualify too. A lot them say that they fully expected to die.
  • Subverted, if the story behind the "Burghers of Calais" sculpture is to be believed: the six noblemen of the town who offered themselves in exchange for the town's safety ended up alive after it all, and the statue depicts them as not so much "heroic" as defeated and weary, but conscious of duty.
  • Flower, veteran matriarch of Meerkat Manor's Whiskers clan, embraced this trope when she went Mama Bear on a den-invading cobra, and got bitten on the face defending her pups.
    • Her son Shakespeare as well. First, he gets bitten on the jaw and thigh driving off a puff adder, then later, he has the misfortune of being the lone babysitter for his mother's pups when a rival pack comes calling. No-one's actually sure what happened, but the pups survived and Shakespeare was never seen again.
  • First Lieutenant John Robert Fox called fire on his own position on December 26 1944 in a successful attempt to stall a German advance. His body was located in a counter-attack the next day, along with those of around 100 German soldiers.
  • The journalist and writer Rodolfo Walsh was killed during the last Argentinian military dictatorship a day after his exceptionally cunning Carta Abierta A La Junta Militar in a trap that he was aware of: Another victim of political persecution called him for help, and he, awared of the dangers of going out his refuge in the Tigre Islands, chose to go out nonetheless. He couldn't live with his conciousness in case that the call was real. He even was Made of Iron, as he died fighting for a long time with the para-military forces, and stand his ground with many shots in the chest, until he was shot down, Defiant to the End.
  • Captain Lawrence Oates, member of the Terra Nova Expedition (and expedition to the South Pole). While returning from the center of the South Pole with another three people (they were five but one died) his condition started to get worse due to frostbite and scurvy, slowing the others. He realized that due to him slowing them down the others wouldn't be able to survive. So, he asked them to leave him behind; when they refused, he said "I'm just going outside and may be some time", he put his boots and walked out of his tent into a -40cº blizzard.
  • Marian Fisher, age 13, the oldest of ten girls taken hostage in the Amish school shooting in 2006: "Shoot me first"
  • Philippine man loses own life after saving dozens from floods
  • Firefighters who responded to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, many of whom realized they were exposing themselves to lethal levels of radiation and condemning themselves to painful deaths by rushing in to extinguish the burning reactor but did so anyway.
    • The liquidators as well, soldiers and volunteers who took part in the cleanup operations to evacuate the nearby areas and to help stop the spread of the radiation. If it wasn't for them the disaster would have been far far worse. And let us be clear about this: some of these men were collecting highly radioactive graphite lumps with their bare hands.
    • For some of the firemen, specifically those from No. 1 precinct, this is a subversion: they weren't told of the danger, leading to some picking up lumps of graphite moderator ejected from the reactor and in so doing ensuring they would have only weeks to live. Three men, led by fire Lieutenant Volodymyr Pravik, actually climbed onto the roof of the reactor hall, and, though they managed to lead hoses into the chamber, were never seen again.
    • During the disaster, radioactive material fell into the bubbler pools that served as cooling reservoirs for the reactor, resulting in the water becoming hot and leading to fears of another steam explosion. The pools had to be drained, but due to the loss of electrical power, the sluice gates had to be opened manually. Engineers Alexei Ananenko, Boris Baranov, and Valeriy Bezpalov, volunteered to go into the irradiated and near boiling water, wearing diving suits (which could bear the temperature but offered about as much radiation resistance as a mankini) and open the gates. Did we mention - due to the loss of power, the water was pitch-black and their only light failed. Despite being weighed down by their enormous balls, they managed to open the gate. The returned to the surface and died within hours of radiation poisoning, as they knew they would.
  • While driving home with his pregnant wife, Brian Wood noticed that a car was crossing the center line and heading straight for them. With no time to avoid a crash, Brian swerved to the right so that he would take the full force of the collision, saving his wife and unborn child.
  • Ryan Arnold saved his older brother Chad Arnold's life by giving him his liver for a transplant, but died shortly after the surgery was completed.
  • This and this, from the Sichuan Earthquake
  • 'Teen Hero' Drowns After Brother Saved First
  • NYPD Officer Arthur Kasprzak dies after saving seven family members from rising flood waters in his house after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
  • When the Halifax Explosion of 1917 was about to erupt, train dispatcher Vince Coleman had an opportunity to flee, but remembered that a train was due in town any minute. He stayed at his post and transmitted the following telegraph: "Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys." Coleman was killed at his post, while the trains involved stopped a safe distance away from the explosion, saving hundreds of lives. What's more, the message was communicated throughout the rail network, allowing other dispatchers to immediately respond, rerouting traffic and sending relief supplies.
  • Glenn Allen, a devoted firefighter is killed in the line of duty trying to save the home of two residents, and only days before his first grandchild was born.
  • Jalisa Granger, a young mother who died sheltering her baby during a tornado.
  • Don Lansaw jumps on top of his wife Bethany to protect her from a tornado and saves her life, but sadly dies in the process.
  • Compared to Chernobyl, the Fukushima 50 are (hopefully) an aversion. They are carefully being rotated to limit their total exposure to within international safety standards for emergency workers (with only a handful of cases where those have been marginally exceeded by accident), and thus far nobody is believed to have received any genuinely dangerous doses. The generators have now stablised, though cleanup is still needed.
    • In fairness, the Chernobyl disaster was, of course, far worse (massively higher levels of radiation, inferior or lacking safety equipment and procedures, much less transparency). Certainly a Crowning Moment of Awesome for the 50, but it likely won't turn out to be a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • As a corollary: all of the old people who willingly line up to clean radiation in Fukishima qualify as badass grandpas or grannies, exposing themselves to radiation so younger people won't have to. The highest levels involved may result in an increased risk of cancer from twenty to forty years in the future, so they figure they don't have as much to lose.
  • Following the March 11, 2011 earthquake, Miki Endo, a young Crisis Management worker in Minami Sanriku near Sendai, broadcasted a tsunami warning and was credited with saving the lives of nearly 7,000 people in her town. In recently salvaged recordings from the broadcast, her co-workers can be heard pleading with her to evacuate as the tsunami approached. But she stayed at the mic, warning people to flee until the more-than-ten-meter wave crushed the building she was broadcasting from.
    • Fujio Koshita, at 57 the senior Otsuchi firefighter, died standing on top of the firehouse ringing the old warning bell, because the March 11th earthquake killed all electrical power in the town. His bell was heard ringing through the town until the tsunami swept him, and the firehouse, away. According to other firefighters, he violated his own rule about rescue workers; “Don’t die. Rescuers must stay alive” because your job is to help other people.
  • Arland Williams, the "sixth passenger" of Air Florida Flight 90. When the plane crashed in the icy Potomac River, he and five other survivors scrambled to the tail section of the destroyed aircraft. Twice he was tossed a lifeline from a helicopter. Twice he handed it off to others more severely injured than himself. When the chopper returned again he had slipped below the surface, the only victim to die by drowning.
  • The Four Chaplains on a crowded World War II troop ship. When it was torpedoed, the chaplains handed out life jackets to the men who made it onto the deck. When the life jackets ran out, they gave away their own.
  • Erwin Rommel, famed German Field Marshall, was condemned to death for his involvement in the July 20th plot against Adolf Hitler. The new 'blood guilt' (Sippenhaft) law meant that his family would have been punished as well. Rather than be executed as a traitor, Rommel accepted Hitler's offer of suicide and took a cyanide pill. His family was spared, and today Rommel is remembered for his civil conduct in warfare and willingness to help overthrow Hitler.
  • Everybody on the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice tablet.
  • On July 27, 2008, a man opened fire with a shotgun at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, because he disagreed with their beliefs. A church member named Greg McKendry deliberately took blasts from the shotgun to protect other church members, and died as a result.
  • On May 24 2008, Harry Potter actor Robert Knox saved his younger brother from a deranged knife wielder at a pub, losing his life in the process.
  • John Luther "Casey" Jones, a railroad engineer from Jackson, Tennessee, died in a train crash on a foggy, rainy night in 1900. He had ordered his friend, specifically, to "Jump, Sim, jump!". With his friend off of the train, Casey bravely controlled the engine to minimize impact, saving the lives of all of the passengers on board... except for Casey himself.
    • In a less known event of Casey's heroism, he personally climbed onto the cowcatcher of the train, while it was moving, to reach out and save a child who was immobilized by fear on the tracks.
  • Richard "Rick" Rescorla saved over 2500 people by leading them to safety during the 9-11 attack, and died in the process.
    • By extension, all of the firefighters and policemen who stayed in/near the World Trade Center in an attempt to evacuate as many people as possible.
    • John P. O'Neill, the FBI Officer who had led the investigation into Al-Quaeda after the USS Cole bombing and then got a job at the WTC went back into the building (after helping evacuate the daycare centre) to help anyone still alive. He was never seen again.
  • Michael Monsoor, US Navy SEAL; a grenade landed on a roof where he was part of an overlook. He jumped on it and sacrificed his life, taking the brunt of the blast and keeping the shrapnel from hitting any of his friends. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
  • A mother in Springfield, Massachusetts, saved her young daughter by shielding her with her body while a tornado destroyed their home. [1]
  • A shooting between gangs occurs near an elementary school with innocents caught in the crossfire. A mother shielded her daughter from the gunfire and lost her life protecting her child.
  • Everyone's heard about the band on the Titanic, but fewer people remember her engineering crew. The ship's engineers remained at their posts until the end, keeping the engines running as long as they could so that the lights would stay on and stave off panic. None of them survived the disaster.
    • They quite possibly did more than keep the lights on. Questions have been raised about why the ship, unlike almost every other large vessel that's suffered damage on one side of the hull, didn't capsize. It's been suggested that the engineers kept working the trim tanks and pumps until all power was lost to keep the ship upright and allow the lifeboats to be launched from both sides. Since, as mentioned, none survived, we'll never know.
      • Let's not forget the people who gave up their own seats on the lifeboats. These people gave up their chance at survival to help strangers or to make sure that someone they loved who couldn't get a seat wouldn't die alone.
  • When the RMS Lusitania was torpedoed and sank in 1915, wealthy businessman Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt gave up his life jacket to a woman with a baby, and was last seen buckling her into it. He did this knowing that he could not swim and would surely die.
  • Kirsty MacColl was on holiday in Mexico with her family, diving in an area that was supposed to be off limits to boats, when a speeding powerboat appeared heading straight for her son. She managed to push him out of the way in time for him to suffer only minor injuries, but she herself was struck and killed instantly.
  • Kansas City Chiefs running back Joe Delaney dove into a lake despite his own inexperince in swimming to save three drowning children. Sadly, not only did Delaney lose his life in the process, but only one of the three children survived.
  • Michael Patterson jumped into a creek to save a four year old girl who had fallen in. He saved the girl, but was paralyzed from the chest down from the injuries he sustained while saving her.
  • A couple of canine examples of this trope; George, a Jack Russell in New Zealand who was killed defending five kids from a pair of vicious pit bulls; and Chief, a pit bull in the Philippines who sustained a fatal bite protecting two women from a cobra.
    • Also this story about a dog who saved his suicidal owner's life by moving him off of some train tracks when his owner collapsed and passed out as a train was coming by. The owner was fortunate and quickly taken to the hospital but the dog sadly died when the train collided with him. This type of Undying Loyalty is exactly why dogs are properly referred to as "Man's Best Friend".
    • In 1996, a dog named Chief attempted to save his owners, Raquel Rivera and Jay Johnson, during a home invasion. Unfortunately they were both killed, and Chief died of his wounds; but ironically, Chief's blood was found on the killers' clothing, and was part of the evidence used to convict them.
  • U.S. Confederate soldier Calvin Crozier, who was headed back to his home in Texas at the end of the war, got into a scuffle with some aggressive Union soldiers in the town of Newberry, South Carolina. During the fight, he non-fatally cut one of them in the back of the neck, but the soldiers later claimed he murdered one of them and set out to arrest and execute him. Crozier was long gone, but found out that an innocent man had been arrested in his place. He returned to the town and turned himself in to save the other man's life, and was unlawfully executed by the soldiers.
  • Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe was a Polish Catholic priest who first was a missionary and thus went Walking the Earth for years. During World War II, this Badass Preacher was imprisoned in the Auschwitz concentration camp for openly speaking out against the Nazi regime through noth a newspaper and a private radio station, and sheltering (among others) 2,000 Jews. He willingly went into the hunger bunker in place of of another prisoner, a Polish woodworker who had a wife and kids; he continued to calmly celebrate Holy Mass in the cell for the other prisoners, and was finally killed by a fatal injection of phenol after all the other prisoners had already died of starvation. He was made a saint on October 10 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and the man whose life he saved was there.
  • Three men died by shielding their girlfriends from gunfire during the Aurora theater shooting.
  • Similar to the Casey Jones and Yuri Gagarin examples above, Gerald Stull stayed at the cockpit of his failing plane so that it would crash in the lake rather than the city of Monona, Wisconsin.
  • First grade schoolteacher Victoria Soto hid her students in her classroom's closet during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre when she was confronted by the shooter and she told him by lying that her students were in the gym. She then threw her body in front of her students and as a result she was killed.
    • It may be worth noting that, according to Wikipedia, Victoria Soto, along with five other employees, was posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal for "exemplary deeds or services performed for his or her country or fellow citizens." This award is the Second Highest civilian award in the United States, second only the Presidential Medal of Freedom and its military equivalent, the Medal of Honor.
      • Another Sandy Hook example: The school's principal died while charging the gunman in an attempt to stop him.
  • Spirit guitarist and frontman Randy California and his son got caught in a rip current while swimming in Hawaii in 1997. California pushed his son to safety, but was swept out to sea.
  • Elizabeth Joice who was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 became pregnant last year and the cancer resurfaced during her pregnancy forcing her to choose between saving herself with treatment but endangering her unborn child, or going without treatment so her child would be unaffected while putting her own life at risk. She chose to put her child's needs ahead of her own and successfully gave birth to her healthy baby girl Lily. Unfortunately, after her daughter was born, the cancer had spread all over her abdomen, and she died six weeks after her daughter's birth. She said that she had no regrets as she would easily make the same choice again if she had to.
    • Ashley Bridges has a very similar story, as she was diagnosed with bone cancer a few weeks into her pregnancy and was told to get treatment before the cancer spread which would mean terminating her pregnancy. She refused and successfully gave birth to her daughter Paisley several months later, but by that time the cancer had already run its course and spread throughout her body. Even though the doctors gave her less than a year to live, she says she has absolutely no regrets about her decision.
  • William David "Dave" Sanders. On April 20, 1999, as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire on their classmates at Columbine High School, Sanders took charge and kept a level head as he directed hundreds of panicked students to safety. He then ran through the hallways, securing classrooms. He was shot by Dylan Klebold and died four hours later from blood loss.
  • Nicola Calipari, a high-ranking officer of the Italian Secret Services, in 2005. He had obtained the liberation of journalist Giuliana Sgrena from an Iraqi insurgent group and was taking her to Baghdad airport, when an American roadblock crew opened fire with on the Italians' car. By Sgrena's direct account, Calipari jumped in front of her and pinned her on the bottom of the car to shield her from the gunfire, dying in the process.
  • Gare de Lyon rail accident, June 27, 1988 in France, André Tanguy, a French Train driver, alerted his passengers about a runaway train their way and ordered to them escaped. Tanguy alerted the station about the problems until he was killed along with 55 other people, but Tanguy's sacrifice spared others. Daniel Saulin, who was driving the runaway train, failed to tell the station of his name or the train before hitting the alarm system, which would've guide the train to an empty platform. In hopes of the chances of a future disasters are reduced, the French Railway was overhaulled the driver's training and radio system was upgraded.
  • Louis Slotin became the second fatality the criticality accident to happen at Los Alamos, months after Harry K. Daghlian, Jr was killed from the same experiment with a plutonium core, which earned its demonic nickname. The Canadian born physicist and chemist was working for the United States’ Manhattan Project with a sphere type beryllium metal, as similar to the tungsten carbide Daghlian was working with when both accidently made contact with the core, creating a blue radioactive glow. Slotin quickly removed the beryllium with his hands and told the people in the same room as him to mark their location before going to get medical help for record keeping. Slotin received a fatal amount of radiation, which ultimately dying on May 30, 1946, but he recognized by the both his native Canada and the United States for his brave sacrifice and considered a hero for doing so.
  • Cleveland Elementary School principal, Burton Wragg, heard gunshots and both he and Mike Suchar, a custodian, ran to save as many children as they could. Both men lost their lives and 8 children were hurt in the shooting done by Brenda Ann Spencer, who was 16-years old at the time, but had they not got there, more lives would’ve been lost.
  • In 1944, Ben L. Salomon, an American dentist of Jewish background, was working to treat his patients at a field hospital in Saipan when a troop of Japanese soldiers invaded. When they started to kill people inside, Salomon was going to let the Japanese that they messed with the wrong person and ordered every innocent person, both healthy and wounded, to leave as he stayed to take out up to 100 enemy soliders before dying his injuries he got in the fight.
  • This Colorado dad made sure at least one of his family members has a chance to survive... his teenage daughter!
  • Aitzaz Hasan, a 14 year old, stopped a suicide bomber from entering his school and sacrificed his life to protect his fellow students.
  • W. S. Gilbert (the first half of Gilbert and Sullivan) died while rescuing a drowning woman; she survived, but he (being 74 years old) suffered a heart attack from the strain.
  • Neerja Bhanot, an Indian flight attendant, was the senior flight purser on Pan Am Flight 73, a flight that was hijacked by terrorists. The terrorists ordered Neerja to collect all of the passenger's passports of all the passengers so that they could identify the Americans. Neerja and her fellow flight attendants hid all of the American's passports so that they could be spared. After the hijackers opened fire, Neerja helped passengers escaped and lost her life shielding three children from a hail of bullets; not only were these children saved, so were the lives of hundreds of other passengers. For her heroics, Neerja became the youngest person to receive the esteemed Ashok Chakra Award (India's most prestigious gallantry award for bravery during peace time) and her parents sent up trust that presents two awards a year to worthy applicants.
  • Cornelius Johannes "Corrie" Sanders was a South African professional boxer. In 2003 he became the WBO heavyweight champion by defeating Wladimir Klitschko via a second-round knock out that is considered one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight boxing history and was named Ring Magazine upset of the year 2003. Corrie Sanders was fatally shot in an armed robbery at a restaurant on 22 September 2012. The shooting took place in Brits, where a function was being held for his nephew's 21st birthday. Sanders was wounded in the stomach. He was taken to hospital in Pretoria, where he died in the early hours of 23 September 2012 of his wounds. Corrie died diving to protect his daughter from oncoming bullets.
  • The Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice in London includes more than fifty examples of Heroic Sacrifice, most of them from the Victorian era, including a nursemaid who saved 3 children from a burning house.
  • The Japanese Navy had an entire ship full of heroes. In WWII, the crew of the Japanese destroyer Akikaze detected a salvo of torpedoes racing towards the aircraft carrier Jun'yō, which they were escorting. So what do they do in respond? They block the shots with their own ship which literally disintegrates in a massive explosion, creating a smokescreen that allowed the carrier to escape. The Akikaze was lost with all hands.
  • A person named Tyler Doohan rescued six of his relatives from a burning mobile home and died trying to save the seventh. His body was found next to his grandfather, who was disabled and thus couldn't get out on his own. Tyler was only 8 years old.
  • The 9th and 12th Armies of the Wehrmacht during the Battle of Halbe, World War II. Two decimated units standing against far superior Soviet forces, these two units held the line in the Battle of Halbe to provide a corridor for refugees across the Elbe so they could surrender to the US instead of the Soviets. The Soviets had 280 000 soldiers arrayed against the 50 000 men of the 9th and 12th Armies, who stood in defence of 160 000 civilian refugees. In the aftermath, 30 000 German soldiers were dead (and 10 000 civilians), 120 000 (both soldiers and civilians) were captured by the Soviets, and over 30 000 Germans had managed to escape across Elbe.
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