Marine veteran Terry Bagley, a 70-year-old father of five who does housekeeping at a Veterans Affairs hospital, was walking to buy items for Thanksgiving in the Pigtown area of Baltimore, Maryland, on the Tuesday afternoon before the holiday. On his way to the market, a rowhome on the block exploded—likely from a ruptured gas line.
Bagley reportedly wasted no time hurrying to the rescue of anyone who might be trapped inside the burning building. Firefighters later found him in the rubble. Bagley, in critical condition, was placed in a medically-induced coma. His injuries—including a broken pelvis, femur, and hand—will require surgery. (A GoFundMe page set up for the Vietnam vet has raised over $40,000 of a $150,000 goal thus far.) But a 16-year-old girl and 48-year-old woman who were inside the home survived in stable condition.
Amid the usual litany of disheartening news items highlighting the worst of human behavior—mass shootings, wartime atrocities, and acts of random, pointless violence—Terry Bagley’s story is one that shines a spotlight on the best of what we are capable of.
His daughter Eris Bagley later told Baltimore’s 11 News, “He thought nothing about his own life to save two women that he did not know.” Questioned about why her father entered the burning home, she replied, “Because he’s a Marine.”
“My dad endured polio as a child. He also endured the thing with Camp Lejeune with toxic water and he also served in the Vietnam War,” she added. “[He was] heroic, but I wish he didn’t do it because now I’m scared that I am about to lose him. But I’m glad he did it to save people he didn’t know.”
His son Terry Bagley Jr. told reporters:
“His heroic behavior is nothing new. … I’ve always seen this, and I think that every child should look up to their father. … Every child should be proud of their father, and I am very proud of what he did, but I am also scared as well, and I’ve got to be honest with that. But I’m praying to my God, and I believe in my God, and I just want my father to get better, and I just want his story to be out there that a 70-year-old man put his life on the line to save two people.”
A 70-year-old man put his life on the line to save two people. Even at his advanced age, which he surely knew would make his own survival unlikely, Bagley did not hesitate to take that risk in an attempt to rescue total strangers in terrible danger. He exhibited the heroic degree of selfless courage that is the hallmark of a cultural virtue that, among younger generations today, has become a dirty word: chivalry.