America’s Biggest Heroes of the Year

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Source: Courtesy of Montecito Fire Department

Maeve Juarez
> Location: Montecito, California
> Date: Jan. 9

Deadly mudslides devastated Montecito, California, in early 2018, leaving 21 people dead. It might have been even worse were it not for the actions of Maeve Juarez, a division group supervisor with the Montecito Fire Department, and her crew. Juarez’s team was sent to monitor a creek known to overflow during heavy rain. An unexpected gas explosion nearly killed Juarez, but she went back to the source of the blast to help people whose homes had just been destroyed. Juarez encountered a woman who suffered burns and broken bones after she leaped from her second-story window to escape the explosion and carried her to safety.

Source: Rich Polk / Getty Images for IMDb

Luke Wilson
> Location: Los Angeles, California
> Date: Feb. 14

Actor Luke Wilson might have had his greatest performance on Valentine’s Day 2018 when he was involved in a major crash on a Los Angeles highway. Several cars collided and one flipped, leaving the driver trapped as smoke poured out of the vehicle. Wilson and others freed the driver from the wreck and dragged her to the side of the road.

Source: Courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Kevin Bartsch
> Location: New York City, New York
> Date: March 28

When a man riding the New York City subway in Queens went into cardiac arrest, train conductor Kevin Bartsch leapt into action. Bartsch heard commotion from passengers and saw a man in distress, so he began chest compressions, even though it was against Metropolitan Transportation Authority rules to touch a passenger. EMT Christian Winn was stationed nearby and took over the compressions and prepared to use a defibrillator when the man’s condition suddenly improved. Bartsch and Winn were honored by the city for their quick actions.

Source: Columbus Police Department

‘Bill’
> Location: West Columbus, Ohio
> Date: April 3

Police were pursuing an armed suspect in Columbus, Ohio, when they got an assist from an unlikely source. A man identified only as “Bill” tripped the suspect as he ran near the library, which Bill had been visiting with his granddaughter. The suspect dropped his gun as a result of “Bill’s” intervention, potentially saving lives — including the life of the suspect. Police said on body camera footage that they nearly shot the fleeing suspect after noticing the gun, only stopping because he dropped the firearm after he was tripped.

Source: Jason Kempin / Getty Images

James Shaw Jr.
> Location: Antioch, Tennessee
> Date: April 22

James Shaw Jr. says he’s not a hero, but he became one after he wrestled to the ground a gunman who opened fire at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee, killing four. Shaw himself was wounded, but that did not keep him from attending church later that morning. He also created a GoFundMe page that day to help victims recover from the shooting. The goal of $15,000 was reached within two days, and has climbed to more than $241,000. A similar fund was created on Shaw’s behalf and it has raised more than $225,000.