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Top 11 Heroes Of 2011 (SLIDESHOW)

The Huffington Post     First Posted: 12/08/11 09:14 AM ET   Updated: 12/08/11 12:11 PM ET

When it comes to the tragedies that defined this year -- from Jared Loughner's shooting rampage to the tornadoes that ravaged Joplin -- the stories of ordinary citizens who decidedly risked their own lives for others were often just as compelling as the news itself. Beyond such life-risking tales, there were heroic animal stories that defied reason and others in the public eye who quietly inspired others. Read 11 such stories of heroic inspiration that show the invaluable power of selflessness.

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Fukushima 50, Japan's Heroes
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After an 8.9 earthquake and tsunami rocked Japan, nearly 200 technicians took turns cooling reactors from overheating at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, working in shifts of 50. These men and women risked their lives to protect a larger majority, exposing themselves to nearly 1,850 times the usual level of radioactive iodine, the BBC reports. The fast-acting and heroic technicians went to work immediately following the level 8.9 earthquake that shook the country in early March.

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For more on the best of 2011, visit bestof2011.aol.com.

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