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

Marathon MondayA Lineman on the Offense
Former National Football League player Joe Andruzzi helped the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl three times, but on this day he used his brawn for a higher purpose. Andruzzi, 37, and his wife, Jen, were congratulating runners at the finish line when blasts ripped through the crowd. He noticed an injured woman who couldn’t walk, so the six-foot-three-inch, 290-pound former offensive lineman picked her up and helped her to an aid tent.

Andruzzi remained modest about his act. “The spotlight should remain firmly on the … first responders, medics, EMTs, runners who crossed the finish line and kept on running straight to give blood, and the countless civilians who did whatever they could to save lives,” Andruzzi said.

Doctors Race to Help
Natalie Stavas was among perhaps dozens of medical professionals to go the distance, both as runners and first responders. The bombs detonated when Stavas was a few blocks from the end of the race. Despite a nagging foot injury and severe fatigue, the Boston Medical Center pediatric resident sprinted toward the marathon’s finish line, where she jumped a police barricade and rushed to the aid of a young woman bleeding profusely from her thigh. Then she helped one man with a mangled foot and another with a broken leg.

“It was a battle zone,” said Stavas. “I thought, How could someone do this to so many innocent people?”

Medical Miracle Workers
Few of the medical staff on duty at eight Boston hospitals that afternoon expected an influx of patients with gruesome lower-extremity injuries more commonly seen in war.

Still, at the first news of the explosions, doctors and nurses at such world-famous facilities as Tufts and Brigham and Women’s Hospital cleared emergency rooms and operating rooms. Because cell phone service was limited following the incident, medical-team members communicated through text messages. The result? Not one death among the more than 260 bombing victims who had reached the hospitals alive.

An Online Outpouring
In the hours after the bombings, a Boston Globe staff member created a spreadsheet for local residents interested in offering temporary housing, amenities, or transportation to those affected by the disaster. The document was posted on the Globe website that Monday at
5:39 p.m.; within three minutes, more than 100 people had responded. By 6 p.m., 1,000 Bostonians had opened their homes to strangers, offering a hot shower, a futon for the night, or cuddle time with a household pet.

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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.