The stories that stay with you

Every once in awhile I hear a story that I can't shake out of my head. Everybody has that type of story that stays with them for a time after hearing about it, that you think about while you're doing the dishes or raking the yard. This happens to me frequently, but the stories that have been stuck in my mind in the last week are surprisingly similar and are hanging on longer than most.

One of the stories that I keep circling

around is about two officers in Albuquerque, N.M., who arrived on a fiery crash scene between two semi trucks and pulled the driver, whose legs, reports say, were already on fire, from the burning cab. The rescue happened just in time, as witnesses say the fire took over moments after the injured driver was removed.

In another story that's following me, an officer pulls up to a pedestrian-versus-car collision, where a six-year-old boy was pinned under the vehicle. Especially impressive about this story, besides the fact that the bystanders were able to hoist the vehicle long enough for the boy to be pulled out, is that the dash cam that caught it rolled up on the scene a mere 30 seconds prior to the rescue. Of the hands helping pull up the vehicle, six belonged to on-duty Boca Raton, Fla., police officers.

And the story I've been thinking about the longest is a Logan, Utah, crash where a total of 17 people leaped into action to lift a burning vehicle as the victim, a motorcyclist, lay unconscious beneath the car. In the video, the bike is completely engulfed and the full front end of the vehicle is in danger of catching any moment. As the crowd lifts the car, another man drags the limp 21-year-old victim out. That scene in particular lingers in my head on a loop.
These stories took place in Florida, New Mexico and Utah, far from my quiet home in Southern Wisconsin, but they all feel very close. That's partly the magic of the Internet, partly the magic of recording equipment, but partly also something that has nothing to do with technology.

The acts are so heroic and so

superhuman—things I read about and that cops do every day—that I can't help consider the process behind simply doing them. And let's be clear: There's nothing simple about lifting a 3,000-pound mobile steel structure, but there's a simplicity in how it all happens on the fly. Like the officers on-scene with the pinned boy: In 30 seconds, they walked up to the vehicle, bent forward and lifted up the sedan.

There's the thread that connects them

because they're shocking, rare rescues. But there's a second more Kevlar-like fiber weaving them together in my brain.

These stories are remarkable on their own, and law enforcement sees, hears of and lends a hand (or six) to stories like these daily.

To lift cars and jump into fiery semi

cabs is shocking. But so is the thought of attempting such a feat. And that's the thought that's circling my mind along with thinking about at least seven different police officers from across the United States who took part in the individual rescues: that they saw danger and did the unfathomable seconds after thinking of it. And it worked.

To pull a man from the heat of a fiery truck. To unpin a kindergarten boy from beneath a car. To stand in the heat of two burning engines and lift more than a ton to save a helpless young man. What makes these everyday-heroic men and women the stars of valor in these stories? Something that could be so everyday, really: It's because they weren't afraid to try.