We have all heard these stories at one time or other – stories about ordinary people exhibiting superhuman strength during a crisis. More often than not these are stories about neighbors or strangers doing an extraordinary heroic act to save someone’s life. These stories usually involve ordinary people singlehandedly lifting heavy objects like cars, structural beams, and even helicopters to free someone trapped under them.
When real people show superhuman strength during a crisis
In 1988, Vietnam vets Tiny and Steve were working on a site in Hawaii. Tiny was on the ground while Steve transported things using his chopper until he experienced mechanical problems. The helicopter crashed in a ditch. Tiny and his fellow workers ran to the helicopter and found Steve with his leg trapped under the chopper. That was when Tiny managed to do a superhuman thing. He lifted the crashed helicopter enough to help free his buddy. Steve escaped the crash with minor injuries.
Another case involved a deputy fire chief in Hinsdale Illinois. In one particular emergency call, the deputy fire chief and his colleagues responded to a car accident involving a 21-year-old. The young guy crashed his car against a guard rail and was trapped inside. The emergency responders couldn’t force the door open because it would shift the young driver. The deputy fire chief then showed superhuman strength by pulling the doors off the car.
In another story, two neighborhood moms were alerted to a screaming child outside their homes. An eight-year-old had been playing outside when he got hit by a car and was trapped under the engine. The two young mothers rushed outside and with the help of one of the women’s father, they lifted the car so the boy could be pulled out.
You can find a lot more stories where people became stronger than they were supposed to be. It seems that the human body is capable of extraordinary strength when faced with a life and death situation.
What makes people exhibit superhuman strength during a crisis?
Many usually attribute these extraordinary feats to adrenaline, also known as epinephrine or the “fight or flight” hormone. When faced with a stressful situation, the human body immediately prepares itself to respond, either to fight or fly. The body goes into a process that allows it to go into action. Thus, the term “adrenaline rush.”
Some people would say that sometimes the stories weren’t analyzed carefully. Maybe the water in the ditch gave the helicopter enough buoyancy to allow Tiny to lift it a few inches to help his friend. Maybe the car doors were already somewhat unhinged when the 21-year-old crashes into the guard rail and this helped the deputy fire chief pull off the doors. There are a lot of factors that could have helped the situation, but there really is no one single answer.
Well, whether it was adrenaline rush or a combination of factors, we can’t discount the fact that these people still showed superhuman qualities during these emergencies. Showing superhuman strength during a crisis also means that these people were heroes at the moment.