Everyday heroes: 11 tales of American heroes
Charles Ramsey answered a call for distress and discovered a house of horrors. Victor Perez stopped the abduction of an 8-year-old girl. Two teenage boys rescued a couple from a burning car wreck in Florida. New Yorker Kashmir Singh goes the extra mile to help a Swiss couple. Here are 11 stories of everyday American heroes who responded to trying circumstances with extraordinary grace and courage.
1. Charles Ramsey rescued three women and a girl
Charles Ramsey had a history of domestic violence. He assaulted his wife more than once, and went to jail for it in 2003.
But a decade later, on the afternoon of May 6, 2013, when he heard a woman next door "going nuts," Charles Ramsey did the right thing.
He ran over to his next door neighbor's house, at 2207 Seymour Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio, to see what was wrong.
Ramsey had lived next door to Ariel Castro for a year, and had barbequed with him in the back yard. But he'd never seen this young woman before.
"She said help me get out," he says. "I figured it was a domestic violence dispute," he told The Associated Press. The door would only open a crack, so he told her to kick out the screen. "She comes out with a little girl and says 'Call 911.'
She told Ramsey she was Amanda Berry. He says it didn't register who she was until he was on the phone with the 911 dispatcher. "I'm calling 911 for Amanda Berry? I thought this girl was dead!"
In freeing Amanda Berry and her six-year old daughter, Charles Ramsey effectively saved three women and child from perhaps many more years of abuse.
Ariel Castro, the owner of the house next door, was charged with the kidnapping and rape of three women for about a decade.
Ramsey was widely interviewed for his role and the videos went viral. He was hailed a hero, but some media also noted his flaws.
"The Cleveland man credited with helping free female captives from a house of horrors is a convicted felon whose rap sheet includes three separate domestic violence convictions that resulted in prison terms, court records show," reported the Smoking Gun.
How did readers of The Smoking Gun respond?
"Ten years ago this man did something horrible, did his time, took classes and started working on him[self]. Regardless of his past mistakes, he saved three women from a life of hell," wrote Mellissa Webster, a self-described hair stylist.
And Andrea Baxter wrote: "We're all works in progress and have things in our past we'd like to remain there. Charles Ramsey might not be an angel, but he showed himself to be a standup guy with his handling of this situation. I'd love to have him as my neighbor..."
Does Ramsey feel like a hero?
"No. No, no, no. Bro, I'm a Christian and an American, I'm just like you," he told Anderson Cooper. "We bleed the same blood. Put our pants on the same way... It's just that you got to put that being a coward, 'I don't want to get into anybody's business,' you got to put that away for a minute.
And Ramsey, who works as a dishwasher at a Cleveland restaurant, says he has no interest in the FBI reward offered for the missing women.
"Take that reward and give it to them," he said.