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Tucked away in a small park in London is a wall of plaques dedicated to acts of everyday heroism.

In Postman's Park, nestled among Japanese musa basjoos and dove trees, is a gallery with many small tiles lining a 50-foot brick wall.

It's called the Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice, and the 54 plaques each commemorate the brave acts of men, women, and children who perished trying to save others' lives.


Victorian sculptor George Frederic Watts first proposed the idea for the memorial in a letter to The Times for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887.

"The character of a nation as a people of great deeds is one, it appears to me, that should never be lost sight of," Watts wrote in his letter.

George Frederic Watts. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

According to the Everyday Heroes of Postmans' Park, Watts combed through newspapers for decades searching for small stories about ordinary people who sacrificed their own lives to save others.

Plaques are displayed along a memorial wall in Postman's Park. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Eventually, the wall came to life in 1900 in a stunning and emotional display of selfless acts.

A general view of Postman's Park. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

The memorial was designed to be as simple as possible so as not to detract from the great deeds recorded upon it.

The austere wooden gallery was designed by Sir Ernest George.

And some of the beautiful blue-and-white tile plaques were designed by famed tile designer William de Morgan.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

In his letter, Watts said he was partly inspired by the story of Alice Ayres, who saved three children's lives by pushing a feather bed out a second floor window of a home that was on fire and tossing the children to safety. Tragically, she fell during her escape and died at the hospital.

Ayres' story became the first plaque of the memorial.

The ages of those memorialized range from 8 to 61 years old.

Henry Bristow, the youngest person on wall, died saving his sister’s life from a fire in 1890.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

And each story is astonishing.

Like Mary Rogers, a stewardess who gave up her life belt to save another person when her ship, the Stella, sank.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

In 1884, Samuel Rabbeth, a doctor, willingly risked his life to try and save a child from diphtheria. Ultimately, he succumbed to the disease along with the boy.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

In total, the wall commemorates 61 lives lost during the Victorian era.

They are a humbling reminder of the risks, perils, and dangers society faces everyday and the people who bravely step up to protect others.

We need these shining examples of selflessness, heroism, and self-sacrifice to remind us of the humanity in the world.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Watts wrote in his 1887 letter that "the material prosperity of a nation is not an abiding possession; the deeds of its people are."

After Watts death in 1904, his wife Mary continued the project until 1929 when interest in the memorial subsided.

A new plaque was installed in 2009, though, to honor Leigh Pitt, a man who drowned in 2007 while saving 9-year-old Harley Bagnall-Taylor in Gallions Lake.

It was the first plaque to be added in over 80 years.

Though society, culture, and technology has changed significantly since Watts proposed the idea for this memorial 129 years ago, the need for shining examples of everyday heroism has not.

In recent years, there has been no shortage of heroic deeds performed by the average person across the globe. We are constantly reminded through the news, our Facebook feeds, and through Twitter that people are sacrificing their lives to help others.

But where is their memorial?

Who do you know who deserves to be memorialized in a public monument for the sacrifice to save innocent lives?

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

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