Inspiring Stories Born From Historic Tragedies

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Vote up the stories of historical courage that inspire you.

The earth is a turbulent place with so many different ideas, perspectives, and beliefs. Throughout history, these differences have led to many inspiring stories. However, many of these inspiring stories have been born from tragedies, demonstrating how humanity can persevere and do good in the face of harm.

The stories on this list are not only unbelievable, heartwarming, and likely to restore your faith in humanity, but also proof that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

  • Social Worker Irena Sendler Rescued Jews In Poland
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    1,375 VOTES

    Social Worker Irena Sendler Rescued Jews In Poland

    Not many people know the story of Irena Sendler, who helped rescue approximately 2,500 Jewish children between 1942 and 1943. Sendler, who was a Catholic social worker, worked with a team of 10 people whom she trusted to help her rescue children from the Warsaw ghetto. 

    She would disguise herself as an infection control nurse, knock on doors, and try to convince people to let her hide their children and grandchildren in orphanages, foster homes, or convents. She would get identity documentation forged for the children with new Polish names. Yet, she would keep the documents with their real Jewish names buried in milk jars in her backyard and the backyards of those who worked tirelessly alongside her. 

    Eventually, the German occupiers began to suspect that Sendler was aiding the Jews, so they arrested her in 1943. Sendler managed to withstand imprisonment and torture, as she would not give up the names of those she had helped. Although she was sentenced to death, she managed to escape on the scheduled day of her execution. 

    1,375 votes
  • 2
    1,483 VOTES

    Simon Gronowski's Mother Saved Him From Auschwitz At The Cost Of Her Own Life

    On April 19, 1943, a tale of extraordinary bravery and self-sacrifice occurred. On this day, a train carrying 1,631 Jews was bound for a Nazi detention camp. These people were destined for the gas chambers of Auschwitz, but one 11-year-old boy escaped thanks to the actions of his mother. 

    Shortly after the train left for Auschwitz, it was attacked by Belgian resistance fighters in what would be the only time a Nazi transport carrying Jewish people would be stopped during WWII. The skirmish didn’t last long, and shortly afterward, the train was traveling towards its destination again. 

    However, this occurrence inspired hope and determination among the Jewish detainees. The men in the wagon where Simon and his mother were imprisoned succeeded in opening a door. Simon’s mother, Chana Gronowski, gave her son a 100 franc note and, since Simon was too small to reach the foot rail himself, lowered him down by his shoulders until he dropped out of the wagon. 

    Simon ran through the woods before seeking help from a village woman, who took him to the police station. A kind police officer arranged for Simon to be returned to his father in Brussels even though he suspected Simon was one of the people who had escaped the train to Auschwitz. Simon’s mother remained on the train and was never seen again. 

    Simon said in the past that he only left the train because his mother made him do so, and that if he had known what her fate would be, he would have stayed with her

    1,483 votes
  • 3
    1,166 VOTES

    Vietnam Vet Rick Rescorla Guided More Than 2,000 People To Safety On 9/11

    Army veteran Rick Rescorla was the head of security at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, during the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. He was on the 44th floor when the attack occurred. Rescorla reportedly realized the severity of the attack and knew the building would collapse, which is why he went against orders from the Port Authority not to evacuate.

    Rescorla had predicted the attack after the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, which is why he was prepared for the events that followed on 9/11. Rescorla implemented evacuation drills so that everyone would know what to do should an attack occur. It is due to his foresight and heroic actions on 9/11 that so many people survived. In fact, Rescorla gave his life to help those during the attack. 

    In the end, he got 2,700 people out of the building.

    1,166 votes
  • After Enduring The Trail Of Tears Years, The Choctaw Sent Ireland Money During The Great Famine
    Photo: Charles Bird King / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    1,122 VOTES

    After Enduring The Trail Of Tears Years, The Choctaw Sent Ireland Money During The Great Famine

    Two years after Ireland's Great Famine began, President Abraham Lincoln made a $10 donation to the country, which equates to roughly $500 today. However, the Choctaw tribe made a donation that far exceeded that amount.

    The Choctaw tribe managed to raise $170 and send it to the Irish in the hopes that it would ease some of their suffering. They managed to raise this money and give it to the Irish despite themselves living in poverty and hardship. 

    It is believed that the Choctaw people heard about the Great Famine from an Irish man who had been implementing the forced displacement of tribes during the “Trail of Tears.” Once the contribution was collected, it was given to a philanthropist who forwarded the funds onto Dublin, Ireland. This money was then used to buy blankets, food, and feed for livestock. 

    This charitable act by the Choctaw tribe did not go unnoticed. In 2017, a sculpture called “The Kindred Spirits” was erected in Cork, Ireland, to honor the donation from the Choctaw people. 

    1,122 votes
  • 5
    924 VOTES

    The Passengers Of Flight 93 Courageously Fought Back Against 9/11 Terrorists

    During 9/11, four planes were hijacked by terrorists who had a goal to crash them into key American buildings. Three of these planes achieved their goals, but one did not. Flight 93 was the only hijacked plane whose passengers fought back and managed to save countless lives by having the plane crash in a field in rural Pennsylvania, far from its intended goal. Each of these passengers sacrificed their lives to save countless others.

    Flight 93 was a regularly scheduled flight that was delayed, which prevented the terrorists from seizing control of the plane until 40 minutes of the flight had passed. Upon taking control of the aircraft, the hijacker, later identified as Ziad Jarrah, told passengers to stay seated as there was a bomb on board. 

    Once the passengers realized that their plane was a part of the terrorists' plans to carry out further attacks, they decided to take a vote. This vote concluded that they would fight back even though they knew they would die. They phoned loved ones and alerted them of their plans, and said their goodbyes. After coming under attack, the hijackers chose to crash the plane at 580 miles per hour. 

    In 2011, the first phase of a permanent memorial containing the names of those aboard Flight 93 was completed, with the memorial grounds encompassing more than 2,220 acres. 

    924 votes
  • 6
    849 VOTES

    In WWII, A German Ace Pilot Spared The Life Of An American Pilot - And The Two Later Became Friends

    Roughly 75 million people perished during WWII, a tragedy on an international scale. What makes the story of a German ace pilot sparing the life of an American pilot so remarkable is that every country had an uncompromising mindset around securing success. Charles Brown was an American lieutenant who was flying his first mission as an aircraft commander on a bombing run when his plane was struck by enemy fire. 

    Soon after, a German Messerschmitt fighter plane came upon him and closed in on his heavily crippled B-17 bomber plane. It seemed as if the German pilot would take the kill shot, but this wasn’t the case. Instead, the famed German Luftwaffe pilot Franz Stigler escorted Brown and his plane past German-occupied territory while protecting it from enemy fire.

    Stigler’s actions saved the life of Brown and eight other men who were able to make it home to their families for Christmas. 

    Years later, Brown conducted an exhaustive search for Stigler. Eventually, after 50 years, the two pilots from opposing sides met and established a friendship that would last the rest of their lives. 

    849 votes