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2 men cornered her on a dark street. Then she saw a car, and a glimmer of hope

Leah Bartell in 1994.
Leah Bartell
Leah Bartell in 1994.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team, about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.

In 1994, Leah Bartell was 20 years old and living on her college campus. One night, she went over to a friend's house across campus.

Around 2:30 a.m., she left to make the long walk home. As she was walking down a dark street, two men approached her.

"They were both really tall, and I'm about 5 feet tall and small. And they were clearly drunk," she recalled.

One of them moved in front of her, and the other one moved behind her. She didn't know what to do, and she was scared.

"I didn't know what was going to happen, but I knew it was going to be bad," she said.

All of a sudden, a car pulled over, and a man and a woman got out.

"The man asked me, 'Are you OK?' And I said, 'No.' "

The man began to talk to the two strangers, to get them to leave her alone. Bartell isn't sure what happened next between the men, because at that point, she began to run.

"I was so terrified. I ran straight to my house and locked the doors," she said.

Leah Bartell now.
/ Leah Bartell
Leah Bartell
Leah Bartell now.

Almost 30 years later, Bartell still thinks about those strangers who helped her that night. If she could address them today, she would say this: "Thank you for noticing what so many people would have driven past. And for speaking up at a moment when you didn't have to."

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to

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Laura Kwerel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]