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CNN Special Report: Extraordinary People

Aired December 30, 2013 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. I'm Anderson Cooper. Welcome to this special report, "Extraordinary People."


Extraordinary might be in the eye of the beholder. To some, it might mean someone who is just fantastically athletic or someone uber- talented. But what about everyday folks who simply have to be courageous in the circumstance they find themselves in or selfless or inspirational? Looking back on this year 2013, who do you feel was truly extraordinary?

COOPER: Yes. And that's what we're going to look at in the next hour. You're going to meet some everyday people who really did extraordinary things, people like Antoinette Tuff.

Now, in a year when gun violence and mass gun shootings made news, this bookkeeper at a suburban Atlanta school, she changed the story. She had her own weapons, which were unshakable faith and the power of love. It all played out for the world to hear on a 911 call.


911 OPERATOR: DeKalb Police. What's your address and your emergency?

ANTOINETTE TUFF, SCHOOL BOOKKEEPER: Yes, ma'am. I'm on Second Avenue in the school and the gentleman said tell them to hold down. The police officers are coming and he said he's going to start shooting, so tell them to back off.

Do not let anybody in the building, include the police. Do not let anybody in the building, including the police.

911 OPERATOR: Can you get somewhere safe?

A. TUFF: Yes. I got to go. He going to see me running and he coming back.

COOPER (voice-over): Antoinette Tuff was caught between a gunman and what could have been a violent school tragedy, something she never could have expected when her alarm clock went off that morning.

A. TUFF: When I woke up that morning, it was just a normal day for me.

COOPER: A typical Tuesday, going to work as a bookkeeper at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in suburban Atlanta, except, on this day, Antoinette Tuff was not working in her usual back office.

BRIAN BOLDEN, PRINCIPAL, RONALD E. MCNAIR DISCOVERY LEARNING ACADEMY: We termed this entire event the miracle on Second Avenue, because it started with a decision that was made on Monday.

COOPER: A decision made by principal Brian Bolden. He unknowingly put Antoinette Tuff on the front lines that day.

BOLDEN: I said, Ms. Tuff, I need you to operate in the front office, because between the time of 12:00 and 1:00, that's our busiest time for checkouts, for early dismissals for students. And she said, in her usual fashion, Dr. Bolden, no problem, I will be there.

A. TUFF: We were sitting there just going as a normal day. And the gunman came into the door fully armed and ready.

COOPER (on camera): What did you think when you first saw him?

A. TUFF: That it was a joke.

COOPER (voice-over): But it was no joke. She would soon learn that Michael Brandon Hill had a history of mental problems. A locked security door should have kept him out. But he reportedly made his way in by following a parent through the front door.

(on camera): Did he say what he wanted?

A. TUFF: He just come to me to say that it wasn't a game, that he had been off his medicine for several weeks. So he made it known that he came in that building today to steal, kill, and destroy.

COOPER (voice-over): He told you were going to die that day?

A. TUFF: Yes. He told us all we were going to die that day, that was going to be the end.

COOPER (voice-over): And he showed he meant business when a cafeteria worker unexpectedly entered the office.

A. TUFF: He asked the cafeteria person to go behind the counter with me. And he didn't do that. He moved kind of slowly. And it agitated him. And so for him to show authority, he fired the first shot to let him know that he wasn't playing.

COOPER: Hill wanted everyone to know he was ready to shoot anyone who got in his way. So he let the cafeteria worker go to alert the rest of the school.

A. TUFF: And so then it became just me and Michael in the office again. I was terrified on the inside.

But I know that if I kept him there with me, it was a likelihood that no other one would actually get hurt.

BOLDEN: I called Ms. Tuff. And I said, Ms. Tuff, tell me what is going on. She says, everything is fine. We are having a wonderful day at McNair Discovery Academy. You have a good day.

I knew at that point the threat was in the building.

COOPER: As police started mobilizing outside the school, inside, Hill forced Antoinette Tuff to call 911.

A. TUFF: Stop all movement now on the ground. Stop all movement on the ground.

911 OPERATOR: Are you talking to the shooter?

A. TUFF: He's telling me to tell them on the radio.

COOPER: A call that would be her lifeline.

A. TUFF: He said he don't care if he die. He don't have nothing to live for. And he said he's not mentally stable.

COOPER (on camera): On the 911 call, do you sound remarkably calm.

A. TUFF: I was calm on the call, but I was terrified on the inside. I was literally screaming, because I had just seen him get agitated with the young man. So, I know that if I got agitated, upset or anything, he was going to actually start shooting me, too.

COOPER (voice-over): Antoinette was now a mediator between the police and the gunman.

(on camera): You believe you were meant to be in that room at that time?

A. TUFF: Oh, most definitely. I truly believe that God prepared me for everything that I went through just for that moment.

COOPER (voice-over): The past year had been particularly hard for Antoinette, experiences she used to connect with the gunman.

A. TUFF: Don't feel bad, baby. My husband just left me after 33 years.

And then I started feeling kind of sorry for him.

COOPER (on camera): You felt sorry for him. How?

A. TUFF: Because I knew the pain. I had just had that same pain myself. My son was multiply disabled, too. So, I can understand that pain of wanting to be heard and having mental issues and things like that.

COOPER: Do you think he heard you on that?

A. TUFF: I think he started listening. And we started connecting within that time.

COOPER (voice-over): After about 15 minutes, Tuff had managed to calm Hill down.

A. TUFF: I walk out there with him, so they won't shoot him or anything like that? He wants to give himself up. Is that OK? They won't shoot him?

911 OPERATOR: Yes, ma'am.

COOPER: He let her alert the school that they could evacuate. All the students were able to escape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No injuries. All the kids are safe. All the employees are safe.

COOPER: As helicopters and news crews captured the joy outside, Antoinette was on the inside trying to save herself.

A. TUFF: You're going to be OK. I thought the same thing. You know, I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me. But look at me now. I'm still working and everything is OK.

COOPER: A remarkable moment that many believe turned the whole thing around.

BOLDEN: She had the ability to touch his heart. And once you touch a person's heart, touching the hand is easy. When she touched his heart, she was able to touch his hands and put the gun down at that point that he was carrying, because she made him feel like he was a human.

ULYSSES TUFF, UNCLE OF ANTOINETTE TUFF: She has always been someone who can connect to an individual.

COOPER: Her pastor and uncle, Ulysses Tuff, says faith guided Antoinette on that day.

U. TUFF: She studies, she prays, and she's trying to do what is written in Scripture.

A. TUFF: It's going to be all right, sweetie. I just want you to know that I love you, though, OK? And I'm proud of you. That's a good thing that you are just giving up and don't worry about it. We all go through something in life.

COOPER: After a nearly 30-minute standoff, Hill surrendered and was taken into custody.

A. TUFF: Hello?

911 OPERATOR: Yes.

A. TUFF: I'm going to tell you something, baby. I ain't never been so scared in all the days of my life.

911 OPERATOR: But you did great.

A. TUFF: Oh, Jesus. 911 OPERATOR: You did great.

A. TUFF: When I went back to see, all of the children were safe and everybody got out safe. I know it could have went a different way.

COOPER (on camera): Feels good?

A. TUFF: Very good. Very good. No tragedy. So that was wonderful.

COOPER: How has your life changed?

A. TUFF: Oh, wow. It's just opened up so many amazing doors. And if I can go and share someone else and show someone else how to be prepared for that purpose in that moment, it is well worth everything that I went through.

COOPER (voice-over): She will share that experience in a book she's now writing. And at some point, she expects to go back to work at the school. She listens to that now famous 911 call often.

A. TUFF: I listened to it this morning to realize, when God uses you, just how calm you can be.

COOPER (on camera): You have been called a hero. Do you feel like a hero?

A. TUFF: I feel like God's vessel. I won't say that I am a hero or not a hero. I feel like I was just there ready and open arms to be able to be used.

A. TUFF: You are going to be OK.

BOLDEN: That 911 call that the world had an opportunity to witness, we get to witness that every day here in the building.

It's that same compassion, the same concern for everyone in here. She loves to say sweetie. She loves to say baby. I mean, that's how she is. And that's what she does. And she makes people feel like they can do just about anything.

COOPER: Can you say it to me one more time?

A. TUFF: Sweetie, it's going to be all right.


COOPER: Thank you.

LADONNA COBB, TEACHER: I am like this. My arms are around as many kids that I can reach.

MEADE (voice-over): When we come back, you're going to learn about a teacher's split-second decision that ended up protecting schoolchildren against this.


MEADE: What split-second decisions would you make if a twister was headed your way?

LaDonna Cobb was caught in a tornado outbreak that hit near Oklahoma City in late May. You're talking Tornado Alley, where storms had already injured or killed 855 people in the previous 40 years. Now, even though 25 people died in the Moore, Oklahoma, storm, this teacher's assistant may have saved lives with a risky decision.


MEADE: OK. So, tell me what I'm looking at right here.

L. COBB: This is the beginning of the new Briarwood.

MEADE: This is where you used to teach?

L. COBB: Correct. There is where the old Briarwood was.

MEADE: And this is where you were the day of the storm?

L. COBB: This is where we were on May 20.

MEADE (voice-over): On May 20, an assistant in Briarwood's Elementary's pre-K, risked her own life to save her students. It was all as a tornado was pulverizing their building.

L. COBB: Al. of us were just saying, lord, please, please protect us. Protect us. Let us be OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tornado warning until 4:30.

MEADE: Most tornadoes hit this area in the evening. But this time, the forecasters at the National Weather Service predicted that the storm will blow through earlier in the day, in other words, when the classes were still in session.

(on camera): What was different about this one?

L. COBB: Whenever we turned on the radio and we were listening, you do -- you can hear it in their voice. And they were saying, you know, this one has a potential to be deadly.

MEADE: She and her husband, Steve, had taken off work that afternoon to close on a new home. But that would have to wait.

L. COBB: When the alert came on, we said, we're going to go to the school and get our girls, because we want them to be safe.

MEADE: Out of the 32 schools in the town of Moore, only two had FEMA- approved safe areas. Their three daughters were not in those buildings. They were at Briarwood, where their mom works.

L. COBB: We got to the school and I saw my students. And the pre-K teacher and my substitute were there and rubbing their back and singing songs to them. And I don't know what came over me, but just protection for them. And I told my husband, I said, I can't leave.

STEVE COBB, HUSBAND OF LADONNA COBB: I guess it's fight or flight or whatever, you know how they talk about what your reaction is. I think mine was more flight than maybe fight.

L. COBB: He kept coming and just going, you know, come on. And I just kept going, no. And then he would go back out for a little while. He would come back and he's like, come on. And I was like, no.

S. COBB: She had more fight in her, you know, to feel that need to protect everybody.

L. COBB: Whether he came in and he said, get out here now, I knew -- my stomach dropped at that moment. Just the look on his face and the tone of his voice, I knew something was really, really wrong. And when I came around that building and saw it, my heart just dropped.

MEADE (on camera): You actually saw the twister?

L. COBB: Oh, yes.

MEADE: What did you see?

L. COBB: It was enormous. I could see big, huge pieces of debris flying in the air.

MEADE: Could you really?

L. COBB: Yes. It was, I would say, half-a-mile to a mile at the most away from us at that point.

MEADE (voice-over): By then, they felt there was no time to get away. LaDonna and Steve bolted inside. They came to classroom 202, which just happened to be the classroom of their daughter Erin in the first grade.

L. COBB: The tornado precaution is to put your hands over your head and get down on your hands and knees.

MEADE (on camera): So I'm a child.

L. COBB: Right.

MEADE: So, I'm like this. And what are you doing for your daughter?


L. COBB: I am like this over the back of all of them. Like, I'm over her and my arms are around as many kids that I can reach.

MEADE: So you're not safe at all?

L. COBB: No. But that doesn't really cross my mind. At that point, I just wanted to put whatever I could between whatever was going to happen and those babies.

MEADE: So what did happen?

L. COBB: At this point, it's pitch black. There's no electricity, and big, huge bangs, just bam, bam, which later we found out was cars and farm equipment.

MEADE: Oh, my gosh. Yes.

L. COBB: And then just a loud, indescribable roar.

MEADE (voice-over): A teacher in another class recorded this cell phone video. And you can tell how frightened everybody is. Yet, you can also hear the teachers trying to calm the youngsters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My knees hurt really bad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Honey, it's OK. It's almost over.

MEADE: The darkness they were cowering in was suddenly washed in light.


MEADE: Because the roof was gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

L. COBB: Whether the roof came off, I felt myself being pulled. And it wasn't very long before the wall fell on me.

MEADE (on camera): Oh, my gosh. The wall fell on you?

L. COBB: Yes.

MEADE (voice-over): This is the wall that we're talking about. It's made of cinder blocks and of steel rebar, and it is heavy.

L. COBB: The wall that fell on me would have been too much for those kids. I can't even imagine what it would have done to their little bodies.

MEADE (on camera): Does someone remove the wall? What happened?

L. COBB: My husband, who was right next to me, he looked over and all he could see was the back of my legs. And he could hear me screaming, it's crushing me, it's crushing me.

S. COBB: It was like, I got to get the wall off my wife. And I just remember grabbing it and just lifting as hard as I could to try to get that up, because I was like, she is going to die if I don't get that off of her.

L. COBB: My daughter was one of the kids that was underneath me, my youngest. She was just screaming, mom, mom, mom, wake up, wake up.

And I could see her. She seemed kind of translucent to me. I kind of thought I was dead.


MEADE (voice-over): You can imagine afterward outside how parents and teachers and the students who were able to pick their way out of the rubble were traumatized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's out. She's out.

MEADE: A local photographer took this picture of Steve and LaDonna and two of her daughters in shock right after the funnel cloud hit. LaDonna was just then starting to realize the extent of her injuries.

L. COBB: I broke my cheekbone. And so this side of my face is still numb. I had a gash in the back of my head to my skull. I had 16 staples.

MEADE (on camera): Oh, that probably scared the kids, too, didn't it?

L. COBB: My middle daughter was screaming, somebody help my mom. My mom is going to die. And I just kept telling her, I said, I'm hurt, baby, but I'm OK. I'm alive. I'm here.

MEADE (voice-over): Amazingly, nobody died at Briarwood Elementary.

But just one mile away, at Plaza Towers Elementary, seven children did die.

L. COBB: I can't even imagine the amount that Plaza Towers lost and how hard that is for them.

MEADE: Today, both schools are being built with FEMA approved safe areas.

L. COBB: Now it's hope, I think, hope of what's to come.

MEADE: A good sign for the future, says LaDonna Cobb.

(on camera): Would you do anything different that day?

L. COBB: You know, I wouldn't. I don't feel like I'm extraordinary. I feel like I did what anybody else would have done in my situation.

COOPER (voice-over): When we come back:

CARLOS ARREDONDO, RESCUER: When the second bomb went off, I went like this. I did the cross. And I just said, God protect me. And I went on there.

COOPER: The story behind the man they call Cowboy.



COOPER: On April 15, three people died and more than 260 others were injured when the enthusiastic cheers of Boston Marathon spectators were silenced by the explosion of two bombs.


COOPER (voice-over): It takes a certain kind of person to run the 26.2-mile course, and on that spring afternoon, it took the efforts of equally extraordinary people to come to the rescue, among them, a man named Carlos Arredondo.

C. ARREDONDO: When that bomb went off, you see the ball of fire, whatever it was, was very bad, was very bad.

COOPER: On April 15, Carlos Arredondo, an immigrant from Costa Rica, became the picture of courage and compassion. He is one of the extraordinary people from all walks of life who rushed in to save lives when they could have run for safety.

C. ARREDONDO: No, was people who needed my help. And I was hoping not to get in anybody's way and help in any way I could.

COOPER: In Boston, it's Patriots' Day. But Carlos was not just there to celebrate.

C. ARREDONDO: I give away 400 American flags to the spectators. I was holding the last one in my hands when the bombs went off.

COOPER: For several years, he's been publicizing the needs of military vets and suicide prevention.

C. ARREDONDO: This are my beautiful sons.

COOPER: It is a deeply personal mission.

C. ARREDONDO: We lost him in Iraq.

COOPER: His son Alex, a young Marine, was deployed to Iraq in 2004. Seared into Carlos' memory is the moment he learned Alex had been killed by a sniper.

C. ARREDONDO: I feel my heart went down to the floor and rushed 100 miles an hour to my chest. And it was a very, very hard time, and for his brother, Brian, especially.

COOPER: Brian, the younger son, fell into a deep depression and drug addiction. He took his own life seven years later.

C. ARREDONDO: Brian never recuperated from all these feelings himself. Losing his brother was the worst thing that could happen to him.

COOPER: This year's marathon included runners who were honoring veterans, and Carlos wanted to support them. But, suddenly, his mission changed.

When the first bomb went off, we wasn't too sure about it. When the second bomb went off...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something just blew up.

C. ARREDONDO: ... we pretty much figured out that this was some kind of attack.

I went like this. I did a cross, and I just went where -- I just said, God, protect me, and I went on there.

COOPER (on camera): With that innovation, Carlos began removing the barriers here on the sidewalk and moving across the street toward the victims. It was pure instinct. Years earlier in Costa Rica, he had been a volunteer firefighter.

C. ARREDONDO: So I learned to be real quick.

It helped me that day for me to realize that people was in trouble and I was there to help.

COOPER (voice-over): The carnage reminded him of what his son Alex had faced in Iraq.

C. ARREDONDO: I know about the IEDs. And that was all like happening right there. And the site was like a war zone.

COOPER: Including the threat of a third bomb.


COOPER: Carlos' wife, Melida, saw him disappear into the crowd. She was worried, but not surprised.

M. ARREDONDO: It's his mom's fault. His mom...


M. ARREDONDO: His mom instilled with him really good values.

COOPER: In all the carnage, one victim stood out to Carlos, a young man about the age of the two sons he had lost.

C. ARREDONDO: All of his leg was missing, completely ripped off from his side, you know? If we didn't get him to the hospital, his life was in danger by missing so much blood.

COOPER: Carlos asked a woman who had grabbed a wheelchair for help. And, with another man, he applied a makeshift tourniquet. Then, as quickly as possible, they raced toward an ambulance.

C. ARREDONDO: The piece of tourniquet that we used, it got stock in the wheel. and that's when we stopped and we ripped it off apart and redo it again.

I had my hands on the tourniquet tight, tightening up the bleeding. In the ambulance, I asked him for his name. And he responded to me Jeff Bauman.

COOPER: Carlos, shaken met, up with his wife waiting down the block. M. ARREDONDO: Well, he had blood all over him. He took one look at me and I looked at him and we both started crying and grabbed each other and hugging and kissing each other. And he explained to me what had just happened.

COOPER: Four days later, Bloomberg News reported that Jeff Bauman had described to the FBI a man who later became one of the two suspects Bauman saw minutes before the blast.

C. ARREDONDO: He's the person who pretty much break the case on these two criminals.

COOPER: Six weeks after the bombing, Carlos, once again, pushed Jeff Bowman's wheelchair. This time across Fenway Park to throw ceremonial first pitches for the Red Sox.

C. ARREDONDO: This is a moment, a moment that we was healing together. But this is playing with the whole community. Thousands of people right there, you know, it was very beautiful. And very healing.

COOPER: Since then, they've appeared at other sporting events and fundraisers to help the victims with medical bills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me say hello.

COOPER: Along the way, Carlos has become well-known.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a hero to all of us.

C. ARREDONDO: Thank you very much.

COOPER: They call him...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cowboy. Great picture. Thank you so much.

C. ARREDONDO: Thank you.


COOPER: But Cowboy shrugs it off. He says the real heroes are the survivors. People with the courage of Jeff Bowman.

C. ARREDONDO: A very beautiful young man, you know? And he was already been an inspiration for myself and many other people, you know, willing to live. God works in strange ways, you know? And this kid is really quite a survivor.

COOPER: Jeff Bowman and Carlos Arredondo are now good friends. And each, in his own way, Boston Strong.

Coming up, a terrifying chase and a beating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they took a pulse, they went like this.

And the brave New Yorker who couldn't turn away. (on camera): What made you decide not to keep on walking?


MEADE: Welcome back to "Extraordinary People."

In any city you can see so much chaos, and people might pause to watch and then walk on because they don't want to be involved.


MEADE: Or are afraid.

COOPER: Just keep on moving. But one New York City resident could not look away.

This past September a man named Sergio Consuegra bravely stepped between a badly-beaten SUV driver and some angry motorcyclists who were attacking him. Consuegra is a regular neighborhood guy, father of ten. He managed to diffuse the violence, risking his own life to save others.

SERGIO CONSUEGRA, STEPPED IN TO PROTECT DRIVER BEING BEATEN: I just come here to the bicycle shop and say hello to the owner.

COOPER (voice-over): It was an ordinary Sunday.

CONSUEGRA: I was on my way to church.

COOPER: It turned into one of the most dangerous days of his life.

CONSUEGRA: There was a lot of motorcycles coming. They were all over the place. People screaming. People rushing. And then pulling out the man, hitting the man, seeing the blow and the blood from his face.

COOPER: A terrible chase that landed right in front of Sergio. And a split-second decision that may have changed the fate of the driver.


COOPER: Euclide Reynoso has known Sergio for nearly 30 years.

REYNOSO: He's that type of guy. He can't see somebody, you know, being hurt and just stand there and not do anything about it.

COOPER (on camera): What made you decide not to keep on walking?

CONSUEGRA: I saw a family there. I saw that this family needed help.

COOPER: Do you think about that day a lot still?

CONSUEGRA: Yes, every day.

COOPER: Every day?

CONSUEGRA: Yes. COOPER (voice-over): It was a picture-perfect day in Washington Heights, a working-class neighborhood in Upper Manhattan. While Sergio Consuegra strolled to church, a group of motorcyclists was just a few miles away on New York's West Side Highway. They'd broken off from hundreds of other bikers during a mass ride around the city.

As the bikers headed north, Alexian Lien, his wife and their 2-year- old daughter, were just ahead of them in their black Range Rover. A Sunday drive turned into mayhem when one of the motorcyclists allegedly slowed down in front of the SUV.

A biker's helmet camera recorded what happened. It's not clear what took place before the camera started to roll. We see a biker slowing down right in front of Lien.

Lien clipped the biker, who was only slightly injured. Other bikers swarmed the SUV, pounding the car and, authorities say, slashing the tires. Then Lien, who said he feared for his life, sped off, plowing into a biker, critically injuring him.

The bikers chased the SUV in hot pursuit. One tried to open the car door. Lien peeled off again but then exited off the highway. His car came to a halt on Sergio's block.

CONSUEGRA: That's where everything happened, right here. The person that I saw was a Jeep and the motorcycle following. They kept coming and coming. And, wow. What the hell is going on here?

COOPER: Things only got worse when Lien came to a final stop.

CONSUEGRA: The Jeep couldn't go on, because there were too many traffic here waiting for the red light.

COOPER: The bikers used helmets to bash Lien's SUV and ripped him out of his vehicle, dragged him to the ground and, as his terrified wife and daughter watched, began to beat him.

CONSUEGRA: I looked to my left side, and I saw the man down on the floor bleeding. And getting hit, you know, many times.

COOPER (on camera): While he was down on the floor, he was still getting hit?


He might have got killed that day. He might have got killed. I just tried to do it peacefully. I kept my cool.

COOPER: You know in, New York City, often people pause for a little bit to watch something and then just keep on walking.

CONSUEGRA: I felt that I -- it was my part in life to help this family. I say to myself, "Oh, God, stay with me and this man. I got to step in. I cannot let this happen."

COOPER (voice-over): Sergio says he made his move when he saw the driver's wife could be next.

(on camera): You felt they were going to drag her out, as well?

CONSUEGRA: Yes, he was doing that. He was dragging the lady out of the car. And that's when we saw the baby in her arms.

When they took her pulse (ph), like you know, they went like this. That's when I step in. And I said, "That's it, guys. Let her go." I just kept saying the same thing: "That's it, guys. Let her go!"

COOPER (voice-over): Sergio says he tried to shield the driver and his wife, staring down the bikers face-to-face.

CONSUEGRA: I just wanted to let them know that I was there to protect the lady and the guy on the floor. And that I wasn't going to let go. You know? That I was going to be there until they leave. I looked at them in their faces, and they decided to let her go.

COOPER (on camera): You were surprised.

CONSUEGRA: I was surprised. I said, "Wow." They looked at me, and they kept their distance.

COOPER (voice-over): The bikers backed off, and help finally arrived. Lien survived but was badly injured. Police used videos to track down and arrest at least ten motorcyclists and later arrested an off-duty undercover police officer, accusing him of taking part in the SUV smashup.

(on camera): Was there a moment where you kind of thought, "Wow, wait a minute. I'm in the middle of something here. This could go badly very easily"?

CONSUEGRA: Yes. But after a little while, that's it. I felt like something came over me. And I felt real strong and confident that I -- I could manage the whole situation.

COOPER (voice-over): Sergio had a secret weapon just in case. Years of experience boxing and doing karate.

CONSUEGRA: I don't like to tell people that I'm a black belt. But...

COOPER: You're a black belt?

CONSUEGRA: Yes. It's there. It's always there. The knowledge.

REYNOSO: He's a strong guy. Let's just say that. He -- he gets things done.

COOPER (voice-over): Already a well-known resident, Sergio Consuegra became a local hero.

CONSUEGRA: People started calling my family. The police, the media. I say, "How do -- what I done?" I thought I did something bad.

COOPER (on camera): You have ten kids, right? CONSUEGRA: Yes.

COOPER: Did you tell your kids what you'd done?

CONSUEGRA: Yes. I explained to them and my wife. I explained it to her. And she said, "Oh, wow. What you did! You was crazy."

COOPER: They said you were crazy?

CONSUEGRA: "You're crazy."

COOPER: That's what they said?

CONSUEGRA: "How you -- how you involved in that thing? You could have got killed."

COOPER: You could have.

CONSUEGRA: I said, "I had to do it. I had to do it."

COOPER (voice-over); Today Sergio says he feels like a different man, a bit humbled after all the attention but certain he'd step in again to help someone else.

(on camera): Do you regret it at all?


COOPER: Would you do it again?

CONSUEGRA: That similar situation, yes.

COOPER: Would you advise somebody to do what you did?

CONSUEGRA: If they have the power. If they have the opportunity to, you know, to do it, to intervene or do something for a family in crisis, I think it's a good thing to do.

MEADE (voice-over): Up next, a Minnesota teen was dying from cancer -- but his hit song inspired millions.

JASON MRAZ, SINGER/SONGWRITER: I thought it was probably one of the most important songs that I've ever heard.


MEADE: By all accounts Zach Sobiech was dealt a horrible hand, diagnosed with cancer at the age of 14. He spent more time at the hospital than he did at high school.

But through his passion for music, Zach found peace and purpose in his suffering. He shared that music with the world. And as you'll see, he made an extraordinary impact in a way that he probably never dreamed possible.

(voice-over): Music, sports, family, the things most important to Zach Sobiech.

LAURA SOBIECH, ZACH'S MOTHER: Zach loved sports from a very young age. He tried all different kinds of sports: football, basketball.

MEADE: In August of 2009, 14-year-old Zach Sobiech went for a run that stopped him in his tracks.

L. SOBIECH: When came back, he said, "Mom, my hip hurts." And so I took him in to the doctor. We had an X-ray done.

MEADE (on camera): Because you would initially thing that's a muscular thing?

L. SOBIECH: Exactly. So we went to physical therapy for two months. And it got worse.

MEADE: Two months?

L. SOBIECH: Yes. It got worse. It got to the point where he couldn't bend over and tie his shoes anymore. It was that bad. And so finally, the physical therapist said, you know, "This isn't working. You need an MRI."

MEADE (voice-over): That's when doctors discovered a tumor in Zach's left hip. His mysterious pain was caused by a rare form of bone cancer.

DR. BRENDA WEIGEL, ZACH'S ONCOLOGIST: Only approximately 500 children and young adults are diagnosed every year in the United States with osteosarcoma.

MEADE: Despite the shattering diagnosis and the sickening rounds of chemotherapy, Zach remained focused and hopeful.

WEIGEL: He was determined that he was still going to do the things he wanted to do despite his cancer.

L. SOBIECH: We had a lot of hope. You know, there were a lot of treatments that could have worked.

MEADE: But tragically for Zach, they didn't.

L. SOBIECH: When we went on our trip to Europe, I noticed that he was limping. We got home from Europe, and they did a PET scan; and we found out that his pelvis was -- the whole left side of his pelvis was involved. Cancer was everywhere.

MEADE: Doctors delivered the news. He would have just months to live.

L. SOBIECH: So we had to talk through that. Like, how do you do this? How do you live while you're dying?

MEADE: Zach turned to his guitar for answers. Last fall Laura was tidying up the house when she stumbled upon a piece of paper that struck a chord. L. SOBIECH: I came across this folded piece of paper and unfolded it, and it said "Clouds" on top. And he walked in the door, and I said, "Did you -- did you write this?"

And he said, "Yes. I did."

I said, "Did you -- do you have music for it?"

MEADE (on camera): Is this his phone?

L. SOBIECH: This is his phone, yes. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, and he said, "I recorded it. Here, you want to listen to it?"

And I'm like, "Yes, of course I do."


L. SOBIECH: I think it's a great song. I'm his mom. So, of course, I'm going to think it's a great song.

MEADE (voice-over): Laura sent Zach's song to their local radio station.

DAN SEEMAN, GENERAL MANAGER, KS95: This song that was so personal and so poignant. And I felt like it was this amazing message that needed to be shared.

MEADE: Within days, the station's general manager assembled a team of accomplished local musicians who donated their time and their expertise and helped Zach record "Clouds" and even produce his very own music video.

ZACH SOBIECH, CANCER PATIENT (singing): Go up, up, up, up. I'll fly a little higher. Go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer.

SEEMAN: We launched it on YouTube.

L. SOBIECH: Then things went crazy. I think we were on our way to two million by Christmas. And it went crazy.

Z. SOBIECH (singing): Maybe someday I'll see you again. We'll float up in the clouds, and we'll never see the end.

SEEMAN: I think what started out as a -- really a personal message became a message that everyone can relate to, because who doesn't want to live life to the fullest?

MEADE: But Zach's cancer was spreading. His time was running out. Yet, there was so much more that he wanted to do.

WEIGEL: It was very important to Zach that anyone affected with osteosarcoma wouldn't go through what he went through.

L. SOBIECH: That became more important to him when he found out that he was terminal. It's like, "All right, well, let's -- let's do something to help."

MEADE: So Zach created a fund to find new treatments for osteosarcoma and, hopefully, a cure.

L. SOBIECH: A hundred percent of the money that's raised will go to a research team at the University of Minnesota where Zach was treated.

MEADE: Next on Zach's list, a documentary about his final days.

L. SOBIECH: We wanted to build awareness. We wanted to direct people to the funds. So that is what kind of led us to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, Sobiech family. Everyone come downstairs.

MEADE: The producers enlisted the help of some of Zach's favorite stars, like Grammy-winning singer Jason Mraz, and they created a surprise tribute video for Zach.

MRAZ: Thank you, Zach. You wrote a great song, dude.

When I heard "Clouds" for the first time, yes, I thought it was probably one of the most important songs that I'd ever heard.

Z. SOBIECH (singing): You'll go up, up, up and I'll fly, fly, fly.

MRAZ: Rarely do you come across a song that is written with such purpose or written for something so purposeful.

MEADE: Zach's purpose was to leave a powerful message behind, as he told CNN's Ed Lavandera last year.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You want to leave a melody behind?

Z. SOBIECH: Yes. It's kind of me always being there for them. Like, if they -- if they keep singing that song throughout their whole life, I'll be right next to them the whole way.

MEADE: Zach Sobiech died in May shortly after his 18th birthday. Twelve hundred people gathered for his funeral, and together they sang "Clouds."


L. SOBIECH: I know he was there, and he was grinning ear to ear, because it was beautiful.

MEADE: Days after his passing, "Clouds" hit No. 1 on iTunes and on Billboard's rock chart. The online documentary, it went viral, as well: over 11 million YouTube hits and still counting.

L. SOBIECH: And that's when I could see this isn't just about a kid with cancer who's got a nice song. This is something much bigger.

MRAZ: Zach lives now as an inspiration and a constant reminder to the power of music.

MEADE: The power to heal. And the power to help.

L. SOBIECH: I really think that, with the substantial gift that Zach gave us through his music, we will be able to change the outcome for patients with osteosarcoma.

MEADE (on camera): When you come in here, what does it do for you to be in his room?

L. SOBIECH: I feel claustrophobia.

MEADE: Do you still feel him here?


(voice-over): Today, seven months after Zach's death, Laura struggles with the loss of her son.

(on camera): What do you hope Zach and his lasting legacy means to all of us?

L. SOBIECH: That joy and suffering can go hand in hand. He chose to be happy. He chose that. And he fought for it every day.

Z. SOBIECH (singing): Maybe someday I'll see you again. We'll float off in the clouds, and we'll never see the end.


COOPER: Welcome back.

Robin, when you meet these people and you hear their stories, it's -- I mean, it's humbling and just incredibly inspiring.

MEADE: Don't you always go "I wonder what I would do in the same situation?"


MEADE: Because I always doubt that I could do what they've done, or something else.

COOPER: That's for sure, yes.

MEADE: You know, a common thread that we heard, though, is that they feel that they were in those situations for a reason. Whether they thought God was testing them or put them there or some kind of a higher power. They believe they were meant to be there and meant to do these things.

COOPER: Yes. And, you know, the other thing that they share is that they don't consider themselves heroes, just human beings, just ordinary people, wanting to help others. It certainly makes -- as Robin said, it makes you wonder how you would react if you were in their shoes.

Thanks for watching. I'm Anderson Cooper. And I'm Robin Meade. Thank you so much for joining us.