Throwback Thursday: Not All Heroes Live to Tell About It

It’s ten minutes before midnight, and I want to post something today, but I couldn’t think of anything at the last minute. So I went back to my first September 15 post, back in 2015. It’s a sad story:

Thomas Cottingham, 27, of Wilmington, Delaware died Monday night while protecting a woman and her baby from an attacker armed with a knife. The attacker was later caught and has been charged with first-degree murder.

Police stated that as the attacker was chasing the woman, Cottingham intervened and tried to stop him. The suspect then allegedly stabbed Cottingham in the back. Officials say Cottingham managed to get away and then collapsed to the ground. The suspect allegedly followed Cottingham and stabbed him several more times in the upper torso before fleeing the scene on foot. Cottingham was taken to Christiana Hospital where he died from his injuries.

Cottingham, known to his friends as “Cannibal,” was a popular skateboarder and rapper in Wilmington.

Several friends offered their thoughts on Cottingham.

“From what I understand he didn’t know the woman,” said one of Cottingham’s friends. “He was just doing the right thing. He has helped me in my past. It’s not hard to believe that he would do something like this. He was a troubled teen. He was turning his life around.

“He genuinely was a good person,” said another friend.

Another friend noted, “He had a heart of gold. Even if he had known what was going to happen to him last night, he wouldn’t have changed a single thing. He was that type of person. He’d put everyone before himself. He had an impact on everyone he spent more than two minutes with.”

One Wilmington resident spoke the simple truth, “As far as I am concerned he is a hero.”

I couldn’t agree more; Cottingham potentially saved the life of a young woman, and possibly her baby. But in doing so he made the ultimate sacrifice.

It’s interesting to compare this story with that of the five men who last month subdued a gunman on board a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris.

Americans Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone, Britain’s Chris Norman, and French National-Mark Moogalian also put their lives on the line in order to potentially save the lives of countless others.

The big difference though is that these men lived to tell their story, and have been rightly recognized around the world as heroes.

All five men have been awarded the Legion of Honor medal, France’s highest recognition, while Stone, a member of the Air Force, also received the Airman’s Medal, the highest non-combat award for bravery the Air Force can bestow, as well as the Purple Heart.

Call it fate, call it luck, or call it divine intervention, but that’s all that seems to separate the outcomes for the heroes of both stories.

In each case, we have people selflessly acting to protect others, and knowingly putting their lives at risk. In each case, the heroes are successful in what they are attempting to do; protecting the lives of innocent bystanders.

But in one case, five people survive and become celebrities; in the other case, the person dies and becomes a statistic.

Perhaps if just one of those stab wounds had missed a vital organ, Cottingaham may have been sitting next to Michelle Obama at the next State of the Union address.

I am sure there are many instances where people act like the hero, but we never get to hear about it because luck was not on their side. I am sure they were aware of the risks associated with putting their lives on the line, but they took action anyway; that’s what makes them heroes.

Reading sad stories like Cottingham’s sure makes me want to believe in karma so that such heroes will benefit in the future from the good they have done in the past.

RIP Cannibal

It would be nice if I could at least add that the world has become a kinder, gentler place in the past seven years, but alas it has not.

Here’s to all those unsung heroes out there…

35 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Not All Heroes Live to Tell About It

  1. Quite a story! While we can monitor some things in life, many are out of our control. Why is one person killed by a drunk driver when another receives only a minor fender bender? Your point about anonymous heroes is excellent.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So sad. A similar incident happened in Halifax a few years ago where a stranger intervened in an attack and was killed. He was well known in his community and a memorial was created so he wouldn’t be forgotten. But he still became a statistic.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. A wonderful, yet heartbreaking post. Thanks for sharing it. There are so many unsung heroes and most of them wouldn’t comsider themselves heroes. They would say that they just did what their heart told them to do. They don’t think about it, they just do it!
    A friend told me this week how a cashier at a drive thru restaurant pushed himself through the window when noticing that the baby in the backseat was choking! He saved her. Imagine how thankful that mom was!!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. it’s ncie to know that there are so many unsung heroes. It’s a shame when they have to give their life as part of being a hero. What a great story about the choking baby…


  4. RIP, it’s so sad he passed away but hearing stories like that where people put themselves in danger to help others really restores my faith in humanity. There are still some very amazing people out there.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. That’s a very thoughtful and thought-provoking piece, Jim. Life’s a bitch – it is not fair. It doesn’t make Thomas Cottingham, and others like him, any less of a hero. We have to believe people like him outweigh the bad guys in the world. I think they do; and we progress because of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. To be honest with you, I couldn’t even read the whole thing. Stories like that make me very sad. I truly admire people who step out of themselves to help others, especially people they don’t know. These are the types of people who keep us civilized and human.
    I’ve often found that those who’ve had very difficult lives are often the first ones to show kindness and want to help.
    I’ve had a particularly hard life myself and all my life I’ve always defended others against bullies, or simply people being treated badly. I’ve been different all my life and I always find myself defending those who are different. It’s just a part of me that I can’t change.
    Even though I couldn’t read it all, thank you for blogging about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, there is something special about someone who helps complete strangers. And I think you are right about those who have had a tough life might bemore willing to help others, perhaps because they know what it is like to struggle, and are grateful when someone helps them…

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