The Year: Heroes

Part 5 of Katie Couric's special looking back at 2011.
9:49 | 12/15/11

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Transcript for The Year: Heroes
If you're looking up the definition of a hero. In 2011. You'll likely find a -- and Navy SEALs. The members -- seal team six who under the cover of darkness one me night and Pakistan. Took down enemy number one. Osama bin Laden. We don't know their names we probably never will think -- inning -- the job. There -- among the men who can -- 350. Feet under water with their hands and feet now. Your exposure to Arctic conditions and tear gas food and Mission Impossible and turned it into position. When one of the largest earthquake ever recorded his hand on March 11 triggering this nominee. The country was decimated. Sending -- Fukushima nuclear plant into meltdown. Like cancer and radiation is spreading out from that -- size. But in the tragedy the Fukushima fifty emerged as the ultimate example of selflessness. Skilled workers almost certainly risking death by radiation. By going back into the plan to try and prevent an even bigger catastrophe. Called a suicide mission many of the workers are still there. Even as radiation continues to -- -- -- -- This country's summer tornado season turned out to be one of the deadliest on record. It was made -- the most powerful kind of tornado. An EF five blasted through Joplin Missouri. -- streets vanished homes were picked up and shattered like pick up sticks and there's nothing I -- god. Even the hospital was not spared. Leaving victims with no place to turn. 161. People lost their lives including seven students. Some of whom had just graduated from high school. Minutes before the storm hit. Thousands of volunteers from around the world flocked to the state heroes with a -- some. And it's -- on. The high school reopened in August. Students. And next month there. Debris around funny hospital. S homes rise from the ruins. No one had to risk their own lives to save a motorcyclist 1 September -- in Utah. But they did bowl -- -- pinned under this two ton BMW. Was college student Brandon Wright. Unconscious and helpless. That -- could have gone -- at any time. When suddenly out of nowhere these dozen or so people arrive to try to get this car often -- a rocket that doesn't work then more -- The good samaritans included a police officer of this man. Stay at home mom. And some construction workers and I really wouldn't think about it more -- American -- Cars. Incredibly. With an almost superhuman surge of adrenaline big lift -- car and Brandon safety and saving his life. That put their lives on the line and forever and that news. 2011. Was also the year we met two extraordinary women. Who -- both the targets of unthinkable violence. One over a period of eighteen years the other. In an instant but rather -- becoming victims they became inspirations. Showing the world that you can -- Over almost anything. And GC -- guard was kidnapped when she was eleven years old. Held captive for almost two decades and sexually abuse by Phillip garrido with the full knowledge of his -- She told Diane Sawyer like this too short to be filled with heat. Nothing like to have this region's -- in this building. How can I refused to let him -- that. He can't -- Me yes. Do -- inspiring memoir a stolen life. Broke sales records this year selling more than 175000. Copies. On its first day alone. Fans so lacking in quest for all the wonderful things that I do you have. Life is too short to think about all the things -- don't have. Just eight days into the new year -- Congress on Your Corner of that. Would forever change the life of a vibrant congresswoman from Arizona. -- real Giffords. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has been shot. Outside an event at a Tucson supermarket. Six people were killed that -- at the hands of the deranged gunman. Giffords was shot through the head and was cradled in the arms of another hero her intern. Daniel Hernandez. I was kind of holding up against my chest and trying to do what I -- -- maintain calm. Giffords barely survived. She is now on a remarkable journey to get her life back. It's. -- -- Yeah. It's instead it's not what happens to you but how you react to -- that matters. And not to be forgotten is an inning Giffords -- this entire time -- hero in his own right. Her husband astronaut mark Kelly. Is there a word from. What's the first quarter didn't have for me. -- think you. I think that -- -- contribute to. Britain and tough. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- While thousands of heroes fought for their country. Country overseas this year. Two were awarded the medal Bonner for their bravery on the battle field. Dakota Meyer and LeRoy peachtree. One -- got his award on the dance floor. Did you ever wildest dreams imagined he would happen to your -- he had absolutely and JR Martinez became a hero on the battlefield. When the humvee driving hit a land -- When I think if you nine years ago driving over -- -- getting burned over 40% of your body I think talk about going -- deaths. -- -- -- -- -- I really am passionate about life and I really am passionate about using my sinking. Chance that I've been given at life and things that I've learned to help people weather still in their first let's make a choice to be survivors and out of it. When the year started All My Children fans knew him as a -- in a row -- wanted to -- the day were ambushed. But just have to -- A lot has changed. I'm -- in my flight of the day and -- give -- my board has since the scandal. Insist question removed Buxton and NIC I just want to get on the plane simply Angry Birds in my iPad that's all I wanna do. Now he's a cover story hero in showing us solve that when life gives you a heavy blow. You can still get back on -- feet and score a perfect ten. Who would have thought it didn't seem to actually change -- Latin dance and is a beautiful thing so now. Instead of speaking from now on the rest of this community and just him. That's good today. Okay. Trading hands 12382. Victory. Like Q3. That. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- These heroes of 2011. From. And have shown the world -- that's a plus some and and what courage really looks like on a battlefield in. More at a shopping center. These men and women. Remind us men and heroism in this found not only on the fields man. -- -- and heroism. -- require special train. Or -- -- whom -- with us here. In the hearts of so many of our follow signs all around us just waiting. To be some.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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