Boston Marathon visitor Carlos Arredondo's heroic moment
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BOSTON -- Carlos Arredondo ran across Boylston Street, jumped the security fence and landed in the middle of fallen bodies. Two women lay motionless. Another woman was standing, frozen, looking down at the wounded and repeating, "Oh my God."
Arredondo had come to the Boston Marathon to watch National Guardsmen run the race in honor of fallen soldiers, including the son he lost in Iraq.
On the other side of the fence was a young man with an expressionless face and a left leg that was only a bone below the knee. He asked the injured man his name. "Stay still," Arredondo told him. "The ambulance is here."
Arredondo, a native of Costa Rica who has lived in the United States since 1980, was one of several bystanders who helped treat and evacuate victims from Monday's bombing. When the smart thing to do was run away, many ran into the smoke instead.
Arredondo has become one of the better known among this group, appearing in news photos in a distinctive cowboy hat. Yesterday morning, as his wife fielded calls from Katie Couric and Boston police detectives, Arredondo said he had acted out of instinct, using training he had received as a firefighter and a rescuer of injured bullfighters in Costa Rica.
"I did my duty," he said.
On Monday, Arredondo said, he was quickly joined at the injured man's side by another bystander. Maybe a doctor, Arredondo doesn't know. The stranger asked for tourniquets.
Arredondo tore strips out of a sweater he found lying on the ground.
As the other man tied the tourniquets on the injured man's thighs, Arredondo talked to the victim, and tried to block the man's view of his own legs. "The ambulance is here," he repeated. "You're OK. Relax."
Somebody appeared with an empty wheelchair. An angel, Arredondo thought later. Arredondo grabbed it and put the man in the seat. They wheeled him down Boylston, bypassing the medical tent. The man was too injured for that.
"Ambulance! Ambulance! Ambulance!" Arredondo yelled. A photo of him pushing the wheelchair while holding one leg of a pale, ash-covered victim would be on front pages around the country. As they went, one tourniquet slipped off. Blood flowed again.
Arredondo grabbed the tourniquet and wrenched it tight. Finally, they found an ambulance. He lifted the man out of the chair. The ambulance doors closed. The man was gone, as well as the other bystander who had first applied the tourniquets.
According to The Associated Press, Jeff Bauman said his son, 27-year-old Jeff Bauman Jr., was the man in the wheelchair. His father said on his Facebook page that his son had to have both lower limbs removed at Boston Medical Center because of extensive vascular and bone damage.
Yesterday, Arredondo and his wife, Melida, tried to explain why Arredondo had handled this shock with such calm. An earlier shock, the death of his son, Alex Arredondo, in the Iraq War nearly killed him in 2004.
"When the Marines came to the house, he set himself on fire," Melida Arredondo said yesterday. Carlos Arredondo locked himself in a van with five gallons of gasoline and set the van on fire. His recovery took nearly a year.
Carlos Arredondo said he had learned from the earlier incident, which made national news, that you have to keep moving to overcome shock.
At the marathon, he said, "I did what I could."