Special Report

Biggest Heroes of the Year

Source: Courtesy of Stafford Fire Department

1. Edward Cyr

Edward Cyr is a good Samaritan whose actions saved the life of a fellow motorist on a Stafford, Connecticut, road in November. Cyr was on his way to dinner with his wife when he saw a car engulfed in flames. Without regard for his own safety, he rushed to the scene and unbuckled the dazed driver, pulled him out of the car, and removed his hat and coat which caught fire.

The driver, Glennwood Little, suffered from a few burns but was otherwise okay. Little had been driving home with fuel tanks in his trunk. When one of them spilled, his cigarette ignited the fuel, causing an explosion.

Source: Odaw / Wikimedia Commons

2. Abiy Ahmed Ali

Serving as the Prime Minister of Ethiopia since April 2018, Abiy Ahmed Ali was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The committee attributed their decision to several of the new leader’s pledges, which include resolving the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea, implementing reforms to improve quality of life, strengthening democracy, and engaging in peace and reconciliation projects in the region.

In a stark break from how the east African country has been ruled in the past, Mr. Abiy has adopted a more liberal approach to government and wants to foster a sense of national unity and overcome ethnic divisions while also celebrating diversity. He outlined his vision in his book “Medemer,” which was released in Ethiopia in October.

Source: Courtesy of Vista Equity Partners Management

3. Robert F. Smith

In the United States, student loan debt has reached crisis levels. Americans owe $1.4 trillion in student loans, more than any other form of debt after mortgages. While politicians argue about the best way to address the issue, billionaire philanthropist Robert Smith did something about it.

In May 2019, Smith pledged to pay off all student loan debt for Morehouse College’s graduating class of 2019. The collective bill totaled $34 million, and includes the debt the students’ parents took out to put their kids through college. His announcement came when he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Morehouse, a historically black men’s college in Atlanta.

Source: Courtesy of Chicago Police Department

4. Mike Nowacki

Nineteen year Chicago PD veteran Sgt. Mike Nowacki was running a 15k race — in 50 pounds of SWAT gear in a show of appreciation for law enforcement — when, less than 200 yards from the finish line, he heard calls for a medic. Nowacki stopped running and found a crowd gathered around an unconscious woman who wasn’t breathing. Along with a firefighter, Nowacki provided life saving CPR until an ambulance came to take the woman to the hospital. Nowacki then went on to finish the marathon, and after crossing the finish line, he proposed to his longtime girlfriend. She said “yes.”

Source: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

5. Greta Thunberg

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg embarked on a new venture to draw attention to the climate crisis. The 16-year-old set sail from Plymouth in England earlier this year aboard a solar-powered yacht for the United States. She reached New York in late August before the start of climate talks in the U.S. She had initially planned to continue her voyage to Santiago, Chile but that changed when the Chilean government decided to no longer host the U.N. climate conference due to ongoing protests. Thunberg did address the U.N. and spoke at a rally in New York, and her remarks resonated with many worldwide.