Thomas Cottingham, 27, of Wilmington, Delaware died Monday night while protecting a woman and her baby from an attacker armed with a knife. The attacker was later caught and has been charged with first-degree murder.
Police stated that as the attacker was chasing the woman, Cottingham intervened and tried to stop him. The suspect then allegedly stabbed Cottingham in the back. Officials say Cottingham managed to get away and then collapsed to the ground. The suspect allegedly followed Cottingham and stabbed him several more times in the upper torso before fleeing the scene on foot. Cottingham was taken to Christiana Hospital where he died from his injuries.
Cottingham, known to his friends as “Cannibal,” was a popular skateboarder and rapper in Wilmington.
Several friends offered their thoughts on Cottingham.
“From what I understand he didn’t know the woman,” said one of Cottingham’s friends. “He was just doing the right thing. He has helped me in my past. It’s not hard to believe that he would do something like this. He was a troubled teen. He was turning his life around.
“He genuinely was a good person,” said another friend.
Another friend noted, “He had a heart of gold. Even if he had known what was going to happen to him last night, he wouldn’t have changed a single thing. He was that type of person. He’d put everyone before himself. He had an impact on everyone he spent more than two minutes with.”
One Wilmington resident spoke the simple truth, “As far as I am concerned he is a hero.”
I couldn’t agree more; Cottingham potentially saved the life of a young woman, and possibly her baby. But in doing so he made the ultimate sacrifice.
It’s interesting to compare this story with that of the five men who last month subdued a gunman on board a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris.
Americans Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone, Britain’s Chris Norman, and French National-Mark Moogalian also put their lives on the line in order to potentially save the lives of countless others.
The big difference though is that these men lived to tell their story, and have been rightly recognized around the world as heroes.
All five men have been awarded the Legion of Honor medal, France’s highest recognition, while Stone, a member of the Air Force, also received the Airman’s Medal, the highest non-combat award for bravery the Air Force can bestow, as well as the Purple Heart.
Call it fate, call it luck, or call it divine intervention, but that’s all that seems to separate the outcomes for the heroes of both stories.
In each case we have people selflessly acting to protect others, and knowingly putting their lives at risk. In each case, the heroes are successful in what they are attempting to do; protecting the lives of innocent bystanders.
But in one case, five people survive and become celebrities; in the other case, the person dies and becomes a statistic.
Perhaps if just one of those stab wounds had missed a vital organ, Cottingaham may have been sitting next to Michelle Obama at the next State of thee Union address.
I am sure there are many instances where people act the hero, but we never get to hear about it because luck was not on their side. I am sure they were aware of the risks associated with putting their lives on the line, but they took action anyway; that’s what makes them heroes.
Reading sad stories like Cottingham’s sure makes me want to believe in karma so that such heroes will benefit in the future from the good they have done in the past.