Hero Reports

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Hero Reports: Submit your everyday act of courage Hero Reports, a new Web site by MIT doctoral candidate Alyssa Wright, is tracking stories of everyday acts of courage, mapping goodwill in the same way others map home values and crime rates. It was inspired by the New York subway's "See Something, Say Something" campaign, but seeks not to uncover acts of terrorism, but to tap a zeitgeist of good, promote a civic culture and reflect the communities we live in.

Read Hero Reports from New York City here. Or, if you've witnessed an everyday act of courage anywhere in the country, share your Hero Report with us here.

Wednesday June 25, 2008
» The Takeaway talks with Alyssa Wright, creator of Hero Reports, and the stories of hero reporters.
» John, joining the ranks of the hero reporters, tells the subway bag story

Wednesday July 3, 2008
» Faith unites Jews, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists in Iowa flood aftermath
» Your Hero Reports

Wednesday July 23, 2008
» A Hero Report on YouTube: The Hugging Saint

Thursday September 4, 2008
» Famed psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo looks at how heroism can be "democratized"

Monday September 15, 2008
» Ushahidi hopes to save lives by "crowdsourcing" crisis information

  Recent Hero Reports

FIRE HERO CASE NUMBER 2008-08-10 22:22:20

I live in Queens close to Flushing Meadows Park in a basement apartment. Over the years, I got to know these two boys, Kevin and Kenneth. They are brothers who used to come up from Florida in the summer, and lived on the 3rd Floor. They were big on the model airplane flying, which involve model airplane fuel. They ended up moving to my house and going to school here full time. Right before Christmas, a few years ago, I returned home from work and thought nothing of the boys laughing behind the closed laundry room door. Then I heard an explosion and screaming cries for help. (The fumes has built up) They had the model airplane fuel in a closed room (with a furnace) and were playing around with a lighter.

The older boy was able to get a fire extinguisher, but it wasn't enough to put out the fire. We carried the younger boy (he got the worst of it) up the stairs and laid him down until the fire dept./EMS showed up. He was a real trooper. I never heard a swear word from him although he had 3rd degree burns over 90% of his body. He was lucky not to catch the schrapnel (sp?) from the fuel can which exploded. I told him to hang in there and returned to the basement with the superintendant and put out the fire with pots and pans from my kitchen sink. The fire was within a few feet of the furnace. I never realized the extent of the young boy's burns until recently, when my basement flooded and he showed up to help in flip flops and shorts. To me he is the superhero.

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National Night Out: Putting All the Criminals On Notice

Crime is all around us. What can we do? For William Anthony Rios, a 49th Precinct resident, the answer was simple. As a woman was being raped, Rios put a stop to the attack, saving the victim and essentially putting all criminals on notice with a message that crime will not be tolerated. While Rios did not discuss his actions, those around him labeled the Bronxite a hero.

"The streets belong to you and me, the law-abiding citizens," said Councilman James Vacca. "When people see a crime taking place, they can do something about it." We have many unsung heroes who do intervene and William Anthony Rios is a hero. This is what National Night Out is about "taking back our streets."

Vacca awarded Rios with a citation that served not just to thank the Bronxite, but to let residents know that they, too, have the power to do something positive in their communities, whether it is save a victim or simply call 911.

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Acknowledgments: What is Jorge Rodriguez?

There is a special USPS in Manhattan. It is the 4th Ave and 11th Street post office. This post office is amazing for several reasons, the foremost being the person who assists those customers waiting in the long, long lines; handing you the necessary pen or form to facilitate the transaction. The second, is Jorge Rodriguez. I was paying for my postage when I noticed a sign taped to a tape dispenser, next to the mail clerk. It read, "What is Jorge Rodriguez?" (Figure 1). I asked the clerk what the sign was about and he said, "What we had, that was a postal transaction... but if you had had that man (and he points to the clerk 2 booths down)...it would have been a postal experience. That is Jorge Rodriguez and its been years and we are still trying to figure his magic out."

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Acknowledgments: What is Jorge Rodriguez? Part 2

The following transcript by a postal worker at the 4th Avenue and 11th Street Post Office echoes the claims of an earlier story: What is Jorge Rodriguez? At the time of interview, the Hero Reporter was neither familiar with the author nor aware of the content of the previous post. "When you come to Cooper Station, right? The rest of us clerks, you just get a postal transaction. When you go to Jorge Rodriguez you get the postal experience. Because, you see, this is why this says, "What is Jorge Rodriguez?" He's not human. He's too nice to be human. He is the one who taught me that the key to life is being nice and slow. And he's a hero. I mean, the guy's an American hero. Came here from Colombia. Military. Do you know that three of his kids graduated Julliard, Columbia and Duke University? The immigrant American dream. That's heroism to me. End of story."

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Acknowledgments: I will never forget that day

I will never forget that day. It may not have been particularly special or interesting. There was no major heat wave or blizzard, no natural disasters, and I was not caught in the middle of a raging battle in upstate New York. And yet my life was changed. I saw myself in a whole new way. I appreciated my life more, cliche as it may sound - all because I went to the bakery. Yes, the bakery. The little shop with bagels and coffee and milk and pastries. But modern and fascinating as it was with its cyber cafe, Cohen's Bakery did not change my life (no matter how good the black-and-white cookies are), rather a couple I saw there did.

I was accompanying my friend to get a latte. An older couple stood in front of us in line, and I happened to overhear their order. The woman asked for six onion bagels and two coffees, but this order did not change my life. As the man, wearing a striped shirt with rolled-up sleeves, khakis, and a white cap covering his sparse white hair, reached out to take the box of bagels, that was the moment that changed me.

As his sleeve pulled up, a tattoo became visible. I saw the letter J followed by five numbers. They were not clear and had been fading since the end of the Holocaust. His skin had long since wrinkled. I did not stare; I looked at the man's face instead. I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to hear about his experiences. But seeing him with his redheaded, sundress-clad wife doing an everyday task like buying bagels in a bakery stopped me.

He'd moved on, and who was I to bring back horrible memories because of my curiosity? This man did not need my pity, but I will always regret not talking to him even though I know this was the right thing to do.

You might think that it's ridiculous that I was so deeply affected by a man I never even spoke to. But seeing those numbers made me appreciate his ability to move on. He had lived through the worst massacre the world has ever known, and he was able to rise from all the death and pain. He was a martyr, but he found a normal life. And for that, I commend him. He is my hero, even though I don't even know his name.

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Life & Death: Proud of You All

On May 1, at about 7:15 p.m., my parents and I were traveling down Bay Parkway when a minor car accident took place in the lane beside us between 85th Street and 86th Street. The driver of the car in front must have been startled by the bump from behind though, and jumped the curb, taking down the street sign and stopping just at the wall of the Commerce Bank on the corner.

Although the accident occurred at a relatively slow speed and no one from either car was injured, my father pulled over to help. As he approached the car, he was the first to realize that there was someone trapped beneath it. No one had noticed the elderly man, who was struck and pinned underneath a front tire. Within seconds, a group of about 20 men gathered around the vehicle and lifted it off of the man. I and countless others immediately dialed 911 and NYPD, FDNY and EMS workers arrived within minutes.

The man was severely injured, but awake, and I would be grateful for any information about how he is doing. I was truly impressed by how quickly emergency workers arrived and the number of people who chose to get involved and dial 911. I was especially impressed by those 20, or so, men who gathered to lift the car, and it is to them that I would like to express my sincerest appreciation and respect for jumping in and responding quickly and selflessly, without a second thought. While it is difficult to get over seeing someone so badly injured, you have made me even more proud to call myself a member of this community. - Annette Scaduto Gravesend

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Life & Death: woman gives birth on F train platform

A baby girl named Soleil - French for sun - lit up a Manhattan subway station with joy Monday. The little bit of heaven - 6 pounds, 7 ounces and 15 inches from head to toe - was born on the East Broadway F train platform with the help of more than a dozen concerned New Yorkers. "We were going to Bellevue Hospital," said an ecstatic Max, "but we didn't make it. My wife started feeling funny on the train so I told the conductor and he called ahead to the station." "When we pulled in I put her down on the platform and her water broke. I was happy the baby was coming, but I have to admit I was a little bit scared."

Here's where those not-so-cold-hearted cold-hearted New Yorkers came in. A nurse on her way to work also got off the train and began comforting Francine. A businessman put his briefcase under her head as a pillow. One man ran up to the street to guide paramedics and firemen to Francine. Several others gave up articles of clothing for her to rest on.

"At least four trains came into the station and it seemed like people from every one of them stopped to help," said social worker Wendy Brown, 44 from the Bronx who held Francine's hand and reminded her how to breathe. "It was amazing. You can't tell me New Yorkers don't care," said Brown.

Paramedics arrived just as the baby was crowning and completed the delivery. Straphangers smiled and a few clapped politely as they left. Monday night at Bellevue, Max said his wife and daughter were "just perfect." "Thank you, everybody," he said.

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Lost then Found: Lost Wallet Returned

I dropped my wallet this morning near the subway station as I was rushing to school. This man saw it, prevented someone else from taking it into their possession, and tried to return it to me. But, I was running to the station and he couldn't keep up with me. So he went around my neighborhood to see if he could return it to where I lived. My grandfather didn't understand English, so this attempt to return my wallet also failed. He ended up returning the wallet to me after he got off work, which he was late for in the morning because he was trying to return the wallet in the first place.

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Lost then Found: all His Worldly Possessions

I was riding on the 1st Avenue bus uptown on a summers' evening rush hour when a police car with lights and siren blaring was after someone on the road. After many blocks of this, it finally dawned on the bus driver that the police car was wailing at him to stop the bus. The bus pulled over at an unmarked bus stop and two policemen and a man who seemed very distraught got out of the cop car and came up to the bus door. The policeman explained that this man had been on the bus and exited forgetting his bags and asked that the man be permitted to board the bus to look for his belongings. The man did, found his two paper bags in the back of the bus with his life's' belongings in tact and departed the bus. The man was elderly and apparently homeless. I have lived on the upper east side for over 30 years and this act of human kindness and charity from these two police officers I will never forget. Nor will I forget the look of despair and relief in this mans' eyes.

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Unsolicited Assistance: Unintentional Mooning

This is a bit like broccoli in your teeth, but a little bit worse. I was walking down Broadway, when someone taps me on the shoulder. Rather embarrassedly, he says: "you're skirt is, uh, stuck. It's uh, up your..." I got the idea. Made quick adjustments. Thanked the crimson face, and wondered how many I had mooned. Really? How many.

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Unsolicited Assistance: Paperwork Explosion

I was going home after a day of teaching at and attending NYU as a grad student. While standing on the platform waiting for the train, the bag I was carrying 40+ student papers gave out and dropped all my students' work on the ground. I was trying to grab them all, making sure no loose papers were getting misplaced, and stuff them into my bag, I wonderful woman knelt down next to me and produced a large, sturdy bag for me to use. She was so kind when I thanked her and offered to give the bag back after the train arrived and I could get settled. No, no she said, I needed it more than she did. I was taken aback by her desire to get involved with my relatively minor problem and felt the common humanity of being a New Yorker - we are all in "it" - living in the city - together. While we may be busy and absorbed with our own lives, we do look out for and take care of each other.

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