Badass has no passport. It has no rules. When badass finds you and hands you a titanium pair of the sac, you can’t say no. Badass does not take no for an answer. You don’t choose badass, badass finds you. It asks nothing of you but to go completely berserk and show Death the middle finger. Meet 7 badass heroes from around the globe.
#7 Liviu Librescu
The man who would become the hero of the day during the tragic Virginia Tech mass shooting was born in Romania a mere decade before the Holocaust. As a Jew, he was confined to a Jewish ghetto by the Nazis as they rampaged through the country. He immigrated later to Israel, and then to the United States as a professor at the Virginia Tech. Professor Liviu was teaching a class in room 204 of Norris Hall on Monday April 16, 2007 when Seung-Hui Cho embarked on his murderous rampage.
When the gunman got to Liviu’s class, the ageing professor locked the doors and held them shut. As Cho battled to get inside, Liviu’s students escaped through the windows. Cho shot the professor five times before he fell and died, finally loosening his grip on the door. Cho then entered the classroom and shot one student, a tragedy that would have been much worse if the professor had not sacrificed himself for his class. He was awarded the Star of Romania, the country’s highest civilian order, and other awards posthumously.
#6 Didar Hossain
The eight story building was originally meant to carry four floors but ended up being eight stories high. To make the situation even worse, the tenants of the upper floors were factories with heavy manufacturing equipment. In mid-April 2013, huge cracks appeared in the walls and escalated over the next few days. Several business closed shop but the garment factories forced their workers to go to work or lose their jobs. On April 24, 2013, the building’s walls finally gave way, taking with them more than 1100 lives to become the second most deadly structural failure in modern times after 9/11.
Across the street, a 28-year-old called Didar Hossain was at work at the Al-Muslim factory. The logical thing to do would have chosen to stay back and let death have her way, but Didar Hossain was no ordinary man. He dashed into the wreckage and began a solo mission that would become one of the most heroic acts in the face of disaster.
Hossain began dragging survivors and corpses from under the wreckage. When he reached a young factory worker called Aana Akhter, he realized that he could not pull her out because her hand was stuck under a concrete block. Aana told Hossain to cut off the arm and save her life. He rushed outside and asked a doctor to go with him to perform an emergency amputation but the medic, fearing for his life, refused. Hossain ran back in armed with only a surgical knife and an anaesthetic.
For almost five hours, Hossain worked at cutting the arm and freeing her. He eventually dragged her outside and could have gone home a hero even at that moment. But he wasn’t done. He rushed back in and rescued even more people, estimated at between 34 and 38, and performed another amputation on a man’s leg. Didar Hossain lived to see the people he had saved heal and in characteristic modesty, apologised for cutting off Aana’s arm when he first visited in hospital after the disaster.
#5 The Chernobyl Divers
Their names were Boris Baranov, Valeri Bezpalov and Alexie Ananenko. More than a week after the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion, a looming secondary disaster was discovered. Beneath the reactor core was a hot smouldering lava that had formed from the materials that had been dropped to smother the flames. The lave-like substance was now flowing towards the emergency water pool below the white-hot of the core. If the lava-like substance found its way into the now-radioactive water, it would result in a Doomsday thermo radioactive explosion that would possibly extend the radioactivity to most of Europe and make Ukraine uninhabitable for a century.
The only solution was to open the gates and let the water flow out, but the gates were at the bottom of the tank. Three men volunteered for the job. They dived into the radioactive water, knowing too well that this was sure death. The lamp died at some point during the dive, and the engineers had to feel around to find the gates and open them. As they swam back up, the first of the 20, 000 tons of water began to flow out. Valeri and Alexie died two weeks later at a Moscow hospital. Boris followed sometime later. Although the three were not the only heroes of Chernobyl, their sacrifice was remarkable. Their bodies were so radioactive that they were buried in lead coffins, soldered shut.
#4 Muelma Magallanes
When the Tropical Storm Ondoy hit Philippines in 2009, it brought with it massive amounts of rain. The resulting floods threatened to sweep away anyone and everything on its way. Muelma “Toto” Magallanes was only 18 at the time, living with his family in a small village Barangay Bagong Silang in Quzon City. As the water rose in their family home, Muelma, his elder brother, and their father worked to move the rest of the family to higher ground. Muelma could have been satisfied with this and stayed out of harm’s way but he did not.
He plunged back into the water and went back for his neighbour. What began as a small act of heroism eventually saved 30 people, most of them who had been stuck on their roofs until Muelma yanked them from Death’s reach. Then he disappeared into the raging waters. When his body was found the next day, it was clear that he had suffered some form of impact. It is thought that a solid concrete wall collapsed on him, ostensibly because Death had run out of ideas on how to kill him.
#3 Fred White, ‘Operator Fred’
On August 29th, 1979, a devastating Hurricane David slammed Dominica, a small island nation in the Caribbean. It was the first such major hurricane since Hurricane Edith in 1930. In the interlude, a few hurricanes had hit the small island, but nothing prepared them for the monster that David was going to be. David hit the island with 150mph winds and pounded the small island nation for a solid eight hours, immediately killing 32 people and injuring 5000 others.
It destroyed nearly all the built environment, rendering three quarters of the 75,000 population homeless. It wiped out all the economy and the infrastructure, including all the telephone lines. For an island country that had no food and was already in a state of anarchy, to be cut off from the world was perhaps the next worst thing to the imminent death by starvation.
That’s when a little-known hero emerged. Popularly celebrated as “Operator Fred”, the 26-year old Fred White lived in a suburb in Roseau. While the Hurricane pounded the country, Fred knew the value of his small Kenwood radio unit. He spent the bulk of the time crouched behind a wall protecting the radio. Once the storm subsided, he moved house and used car batteries to contact his ham network. One of his contacts was the then Venezuelan ambassador to St. Vincent, which explains why Venezuela was one of the first countries to begin sending relief to Dominica.
He then moved his ham radio to the police station, making it the post-disaster communications headquarters. There, he was allowed to hook up his radio to the only emergency power generator from where he sent the first official SOS. He remained the only point of contact between Dominica and the outside world from August 30 to September 1 when some radio network was restored.
# 2 Jesús García, The Hero of Nacozari
On 7th November, 1907, 25-year old Jesús García was doing his job as a brakeman for a train that covered the 8kilometer line between Nacozari in Sonora, Mexico and Douglas in Arizona. It was in the afternoon, he had had lunch with his mother and was back to finish his shift before turning in. He had already been badass the month before, halting a train by reversing the wheels and dumping sand on the tracks after the brakes failed. The train stopped with less than 4 meters to the end of the line. Today, badass was coming for García again.
While driving Locomotive Number 2, García noticed that one of the cars carrying hay had caught fire. A bigger problem loomed, the front two cars were carrying 70 boxes of dynamites, mines and detonators. But that was not even the worst part. The train was coming into Nacozari with explosives in the front cars, against company regulations which stated that they had to be attached to the back. Near the station were the dynamite stores and gas tanks. It would not be a simple single blast but a cataclysmic explosion which would almost certainly wipe-out the whole town of Nacozari. That’s when badass and adrenaline found García, the simple lad who had risen from a waterboy to the best maquinista (engine driver) in the town by the age of 20.
García kicked everyone else out and drove the train in reverse. Six kilometres away from the town, the embers finally reached the dynamite and the train exploded. With his vantage point at the brake being near the cars with explosives, Garcia made the ultimate sacrifice. 12 other people died in the blast but García saved the rest of the town of Nacozari from cremation. For that they remember him today as the Hero of Nacozari. He is celebrated in songs and statues, and November 7th is now celebrated as Día del Ferrocarrilero (Day of the Railroad Worker).
#1 Cpt. Mbaye Diagne, The Angel of Rwanda
Often called the Forgotten Angel of Rwanda, Captain Mbaye Diagne was a Senegalese officer on a UNAMIR peacekeeping mission in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. In the face of ruthless, murderous, machete-wielding militia, Mbaye emerged as a one-man army of charm and cunning. After the brutal assassination of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, her husband, and their Belgian bodyguards, Captain Diagne sneaked into the house and saved their four children.
He took them into the neighbouring UNDP-owned compound. When official UN assistance to ferry the kids out of the danger zone failed to come, Mbaye went full badass. He covered the children with a blanket and drove them all the way back to Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali, through tens of roadblocks where death was only one swing of a panga away. After that, the 36-year old launched a solo mission to rescue hundreds of Tutsis and moderate Hutus from the militia.
He ferried six people per trip in his official Jeep, sometimes going past more than 20 roadblocks. Whenever he got stopped, he negotiated his way through or even bribed with cigarettes and alcohol. It is estimated that his solitary efforts saved between 600 and 1000 people from imminent death. The heroic captain was killed by a mortar shell on May 31st, 1994. The shrapnel travelled from the back of the Jeep and hit his head, because even death was too embarrassed to take him while facing him. On 8th May 2014, the UN Security Council created the ‘“Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage” in honour of the forgotten hero of Rwanda.
Story Source: Owaahh, 2014.
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