They Came Running: Heroes of the Boston Marathon Bombing

Immediately after the Boston Marathon bombings, these everyday heroes joined together to help at the finish line and beyond.

By Beth Dreher and Caitlin O'Connell from Reader's Digest Magazine | July 2013

Carlos ArredondoA Team of Soldiers Saves Lives
At 2:45 p.m. on Monday, April 15, Army Sgt. Bernard Madore, 1st Lt. Steve Fiola, Staff Sgt. Mark Welch, and 12 other soldiers from the Massachusetts National Guard gathered near a medical tent to watch runners finish the race.

A few hours earlier, they had completed Tough Ruck 2013, tackling the 26.2-mile marathon course dressed in combat uniforms and carrying 40-pound military backpacks filled with water, food, and other essentials, to honor comrades killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. When the bombs exploded, the men ran toward the site of the first blast. “A switch turns on [inside your head], and you just go,” said Fiola.

They pulled back a chain-link fence to allow doctors and nurses access to the bloody scene and helped remove burning debris from victims. “That’s a sight I’ll never, ever forget,” said Welch.

A Father Salutes His Son
One of the fallen soldiers being honored by the Massachusetts Tough Ruck team was Marine Lance Cpl. Alexander Scott Arredondo, who died in Iraq in 2004.

Arredondo’s father, Carlos Arredondo, 52, isn’t a runner, but he makes regular appearances at the Boston Marathon. Last year, he carried his son’s boots across the finish line. This year, he was handing out American flags when the first bomb exploded. “I thought of what my son went through in Iraq,” he said.

He ran to a man whose legs had been injured by the blast. Arredondo extinguished flames on the man’s shirt, pinched closed a severed artery in one of his legs to slow the bleeding, and helped rush him to an ambulance in a wheelchair.

Arredondo and the man, later identified as Jeff Bauman, 27, reunited recently. “You saved my life,” Bauman told Arredondo. “I was meant to be there,” Arredondo said.

A Victim Pays It Forward
Bag. Saw the guy. Looked right at me. Jeff Bauman scrawled those words on a piece of paper when he regained consciousness at Boston Medical Center after having both legs amputated. Bauman, who had been waiting for his girlfriend, Erin Hurley, to cross the finish line just before 3 p.m., went on to describe to the FBI the baseball cap, black jacket, and sunglasses Tamerlan Tsarnaev was wearing, as well as the bag the suspected bomber dropped near Bauman’s feet. Bauman also identified Tsarnaev in a photograph.

“He was standing right next to me,” said Bauman. “He was there, then he was gone, and then boom!”

A Vet Whips into Action
On race day, Bruce Mendelsohn, 44, had one of the best views of the spectacle: He and his brother were hosting about two dozen people at a post-marathon party in an office building across the street from the finish line.

“The blast knocked me to the floor,” said Mendelsohn, a Gulf War veteran. He ran down to the street and helped reunite a mother and son, tied a tourniquet around a victim’s leg, and helped wounded people into ambulances

Mendelsohn was in awe of the first responders’ quick action. “Within 15 minutes, the scene was completely under control,” he marveled.

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  • Your Comments

    • Bruce Mendelsohn

      Thank you to Beth Dreher and Caitlin O’Connell for once again reminding us of ALL the heroes who responded in many life-saving and helpful ways in the immediate aftermath of the Boston marathon bombings.
      One correction to the profile you ran on me: I am not a Gulf War veteran. I served DURING the Gulf War in Korea and Germany but I was not IN the Gulf War.