In July 2009 a young mother was driving down a suburban street in Milwaukee in the United States with her two young children strapped in the back. She lost control, the car hit a tree, flipped over, trapping the young family inside, and burst into flames.
A crowd quickly gathered around the burning vehicle, but everyone was scared and no one knew what to do amid the chaos. Then brothers Joel and John Rechlitz pushed to the front of the crowd. Sizing up the situation, the two off-duty firefighters grabbed a couple of pipes lying by the side of the road, smashed the windshield and pulled the mother and her two-year-old daughter to safety.
But the four-year-old boy was still trapped in the blazing car, which threatened to explode at any moment. Joel and John tried to reach the boy through the windshield but couldn't free him. They knew they couldn't rescue him alone, so they shouted instructions to the crowd.
Joel asked for a knife so he could cut the boy free from his seatbelt. John called for a nearby hose. The crowd swung into action.
Even though their own lives were at risk, the brothers galvanised the onlookers into action. They freed the boy with seconds to spare before the fuel tank exploded, engulfing the car in an inferno.
America embraced John and Joel as heroes, but the brothers acknowledged they could not have pulled off the rescue without the help of strangers.
What John and Joel did that day was heroic, but they also used a ...