In the aftermath of the attempts to bomb London and Glasgow, much attention is being paid to the villains -- the suspects behind the terror plots. But we're also learning about the heroes -- the ordinary citizens and first responders whose vigilance, quick thinking and courage helped thwart the attacks and save many lives.
Early last Friday, a passing ambulance crew discovered the first car bomb. Responding to a routine call, the two-man crew, one age 27 and the other 37, spotted fumes coming from a car parked outside the busy Tiger Tiger nightclub in central London. They immediately alerted police.
"As we pulled up outside Tiger Tiger, we came to a stop behind a Mercedes car which was parked rather badly, about three feet from the curb," the 37-year-old, who wasn't named, said in a statement released by the London Ambulance Service. "We can't have been inside for more than a few minutes, and as soon as we got outside, we smelt gas again. Then we saw the jet of smoke was still there, so we got straight on the radio to our control room and asked them to call the police and the fire brigade."
All in a day's work, he said. "We just did what any ambulance crew would have done -- we noticed something we thought was odd and we acted on it. I am just glad that we managed to do that before it was too late."
When a camera-equipped police robot couldn't see through the fumes inside the car, an explosives ordinance disposal officer went in at enormous personal risk. What he found inside the car was a sophisticated and potentially devastating explosive device. The Mercedes sedan was loaded with a lethal cargo of fuel, gas canisters and nails. All these materials were rigged to detonate remotely by a cell phone planted on the dashboard.
The officer reached into the car and disabled the bomb by hand, averting what may have been a massive casualty attack.
"It is obvious that if the device had detonated, there could have been significant injury or loss of life," said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism unit.
The second car packed with explosives was left just down the street from the first bomb. The car, also a Mercedes, had been ticketed for parking illegally and was towed more than a mile to a garage. Hours later, Ispan Chowdury, 39, an attendant at Park Lane car pound, noticed the smell of gasoline coming from the car and urged his boss to call the police.
"When I got to work, I noticed it straight off," Chowdury told the Sunday Mirror. "It was a nice car -- it was a shiny blue, and it looked new. But the nearer I got to it, the stronger the smell of gas. When you were very near, you had to cover your face. It was like the smell of a gas leak in a street.
"I'm glad we called the police. Wheel clampers often get a very bad name, but on this occasion, what we have done helped to save people's lives."
Two men crashed into the crowded main terminal of Glasgow airport in a burning SUV packed with gas canisters. After their Jeep Cherokee became stuck, one of the men leaped out and set himself and the car ablaze with gasoline. An off-duty policeman grabbed a fire extinguisher to douse the flames engulfing the man.
According to the Sunday Mail, despite his terrible burns, the suspect started hitting the officer screaming: "It's a bomb, it's a bomb."
The officer suffered burns and was taken to the hospital.
Stephen Clarkson, a tourist at Glasgow airport, helped police wrestle the burning suspect to the ground.
"He was attempting to fight with police," said Clarkson. "He was disoriented when I knocked him down. Otherwise, I don't think I would have been able to knock him down. He was quite, quite a big fellow."
Baggage handler John Smeaton also raced to help restrain the would-be bomber. "He was saying 'Allah.' He was throwing punches. 'Allah!' 'Allah!'" Smeaton told BBC News. "All that was going through my mind was I've got to help the policeman, I'm not letting these guys get away with this."
A Web site has been set up in honor of Smeaton. The site asks that visitors "pledge a pint" to reward Smeaton for his heroism and "have-a-go" attitude.