An apartment complex clerk shot in the head. A boy stabbed by knife-wielding men. Teens struggling to stay afloat in the Pacific. An elderly woman trapped in her burning home.
All of them rescued by individuals who risked their own lives to help.
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission awarded medals for valor to 18 people on Wednesday, including four who perished in their rescue attempts.
Among the honorees is Joshua W. Steed, 20, a college student in Abilene, Texas, who was in the office of an apartment complex on Sept. 7, 2011 when his 21-year-old co-worker, working the front desk, was shot in the head by an assailant with a .38-caliber revolver.
Instead of closing the office door to protect himself, Steed rushed the gunman and threw a chair at him, according to the commission. Then he grabbed the gunman by the arms, rammed him into a wall and threw him to the floor -- getting his gun in the process.
Steed's co-worker survived.
Ione Fletcher Kleven similarly ran toward trouble when she heard a 14-year-old boy screaming for help in her Castro Valley, Calif., neighborhood in 2010.
The 64-year-old portrait artist chased off three men who'd attacked the boy, punching and kicking him and stabbing him twice in the back and once in the stomach. The boy recovered.
Other medal winners are from Illinois, Hawaii, New Jersey, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, South Carolina, Florida, Massachusetts and Calgary, Canada. Collectively they saved seven people from drowning, two from burning cars, and one from a burning home. And a police officer in New Brunswick, N.J., climbed over the fence of a railroad trestle to rescue a suicidal woman dangling 25 feet above a street.
Carnegie medalists or their heirs receive financial grants approved by the commission. More than $34.8 million has been awarded to 9,576 honorees since the fund's inception in 1904.
Steel baron Andrew Carnegie was inspired to start the fund after hearing rescue stories from a mine disaster that killed 181 people.
The Pittsburgh-based commission that administers the fund chooses recipients four times a year. The panel provides financial help to medal recipients who were disabled -- or to the dependents of those killed -- by their heroism.