On CNN: Five 'Extraordinary People' you have to meet

Antoinette Tuff: 'It wasn't a game'

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Story highlights

  • An hour-long CNN special looks at five extraordinary people
  • For some, their actions in the midst of chaos and crises saved lives
  • For one, he touched other lives with his music in the midst of his suffering

(CNN)They're not rich and famous -- they're just regular people -- but that didn't stop them from being extraordinary. The following five people transformed into heroes in 2013 after they made some selfless and inspirational split-second decisions.

Meet them Thursday during an hour-long special airing at 10 p.m. ET on CNN. Anderson Cooper and HLN's Robin Meade will ask these extraordinary people what motivated them to take action when they were thrust in the middle of some of this year's biggest stories:

LaDonna Cobb

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She put herself in harm's way to save students during tornado.

The teacher's assistant had taken off work on the afternoon of May 20, 2013, to close on a new home with her husband. But that would have to wait.

The couple found themselves rushing back to Briarwood Elementary in Moore, Oklahoma, to pick up their three daughters because a tornado alert had been issued for the area.

    LaDonna knew she had to stay and help, even though her husband begged her to leave. She physically positioned herself over the kids as the tornado tore apart the school.

    "(Safety) doesn't really cross my mind," LaDonna said. "At that point, I just wanted to put whatever I could between whatever was going to happen and those babies."

    Zach Sobiech

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    He used music to find peace and purpose during his suffering.

    Zach Sobiech may have lost his battle with cancer last May, but his music and his message of hope continue to make an impact in the world today.

    Sobiech wrote a beautiful song called "Clouds" that went viral this year and topped the charts. All proceeds from the song's sale go to a fund that supports cancer research, which Sobiech created before he died.

    "Joy and suffering can go hand in hand," said Zach's mom, Laura Sobiech. "He chose to be happy. He chose that and he fought for it every day."

    Antoinette Tuff

    Antoinette Tuff: 'It wasn't a game'

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    She managed to calm -- and disarm -- a gunman.

    The school bookkeeper found herself face to face with an AK-47 on August 20, 2013.

    A locked security door should have kept suspect Michael Brandon Hill out of Ronald McNair Discovery Center in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. But the 20-year-old reportedly made his way into the school by following a parent through the front door.

    Tuff said she was meant to be in the front office with Hill that day and that she was armed with her own weapon -- faith. She used her past experiences to connect with the troubled man and worked as a mediator between him and police.

    "I was terrified on the inside but I know that if I kept him there with me, there's a likelihood no one would get hurt," Tuff said.

    Carlos Arredondo

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    He saved a gravely wounded victim of the Boston bombing.

    He didn't know it at the time, but Carlos Arredondo would end up helping save a man who would go on to identify one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.

    Arredondo, once a volunteer firefighter in Costa Rica, was at the race's finish line, passing out American flags and advocating for the needs of military vets and suicide prevention. When he heard the second blast go off on April 15, 2013, Arredondo rushed toward the chaos to offer his help.

    He fashioned a tourniquet for a man named Jeff Bauman, who had lost both of his legs. Arredondo also rushed Bauman to an ambulance in a wheelchair.

    "He does a lot of simple acts of kindness whenever the opportunity presents itself," said Arredondo's wife, Mélida. "It's his nature."

    Sergio Consuegra

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    He calmed the chaos of a pack of angry bikers.

    A badly beaten SUV driver had just come face to face with an angry pack of bikers when Consuegra decided to step in between them.

    The bikers had swarmed the SUV once before, right after the driver bumped into one of them. The driver, who had his family in tow, sped away from that escalating scene and plowed over another biker, who was critically injured.

    When the SUV later came to a stop, the situation descended into chaos.

    Consuegra, a father of 10 who was on his way to church, managed to diffuse tensions, risking his own life to save others.

    "I felt like God wanted me to be there that day," said Consuegra.