This obscure London memorial is filled with heart-wrenching tales of everyday heroism.

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?

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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