The fiery crash on a warm Florida evening on July 4, 2012 left an unconscious man trapped in his burning car. Seemingly out of nowhere, a figure plunged out of the darkness through a sheet of flames to rip open the door and carry the driver to safety just moments before the car exploded. Like a scene from a movie, the Independence Day hero retreated to the shadows of obscurity, but it wouldn’t be the last time he would help someone in danger.
A modest man, Sabin Barto, doesn’t talk much about his 10+ years in the U.S. Navy. He spends his post-military career selling real estate in Florida, writing children’s books, developing a website devoted to saving the Everglades’ habitat, and getting kids engaged in environmentalism. He seems like a pretty nice, normal guy, but his neighbors and friends claim he is a real-life Captain America with superhero strength and courage. Captain America, because his heroics always seem to kick in on the 4th of July, or within a few hours thereof.
On July 3, 2016, in Naples, Florida, Barto witnessed a car crash while driving home with his daughter from a fireworks celebration with some friends. As Sabin exited his vehicle to assist the driver and passengers, a lone female police officer who had been chasing them arrived on scene. Weapon drawn, she shouted at the passenger who tried to flee to get on the ground. Surmising that this was a criminal suspect, Barto saw the driver exit and run, to which he sprang into action, grabbed the driver and held him on the ground so that the officer could properly handcuff him after apprehending the passenger. Barto stayed with the officer until her backup arrived.
Like a superhero, Sabin Barto seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. That exploding car incident in 2012 took place right in front of his house.
This all brings to mind the nature of extraordinary heroism, which often expresses itself in emergencies and difficult circumstances. While most of us flinch and flee from danger, a few, like the men and women who make up local police departments across the country, dash headlong into the jaws of possible death to save a stranger. At a time when we are compelled to remind people that Blue Lives Matter, it’s bracing to know that American Exceptionalism also finds a home in the muscle, hearts and minds of Americans like Sabin Barto.