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 Arredondo lost in Iraq. He carried a camera and a small American flag.
On the other side of the fence now, he dropped the flag. He took four pictures of the scene, focusing on a young man with an expressionless face and a left leg that was only a bone below the knee. Arredondo put the camera away. He picked up the flag, now soaked in blood from the sidewalk, and put it in his back pocket.
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. On Tuesday 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 fireman 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 his view of his own legs. “The ambulance is here,” he repeated. “You’re okay. 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 this 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.
“What’s his name?” the EMT asked. Arredondo had forgotten. He asked the man again. Somehow, the wounded man was still calm enough to start spelling it out, to be sure they got it right.
The ambulance doors closed. The man was gone, as well as the other bystander who had first applied the tourniquets.
What was the injured man’s name? “I can’t remember,” Arredondo said Tuesday.
After leaving the victim, Arredondo found his own wife, who had stood on a ledge of the Boston Public Library and waved her American flag, as a signal to him. They went home to Roslindale, an outer part of Boston. He was shaking until 7 o’clock that night. His wife Melida didn’t feel warm again until about 2 a.m. The weather was mild for Boston in spring, but she had brought a chill home with her.
On Tuesday, they both tried to explain why Arredondo had handled this shock with such calm. An earlier shock, the death of his son, had nearly killed him.
“When the Marines came to the house, he set himself on fire,” Melida Arredondo said Tuesday.
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.”
(c) 2013, The Washington Post
The Associated Press