Soon after two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday, videos and photos of the grim aftermath flooded social media and cable news. One image quickly stood out—a man in a cowboy hat rushing a badly injured victim from the scene, and from some reports, clasping the man’s femoral artery in his hands.
The response came natural to Carlos Arredondo, who instinctively reacted by using his training as a fireman and treating injured bullfighters from his native Costa Rica. But he wasn’t just another spectator; he came to support troops and Veterans running the marathon, and carried the memory of his son, Alexander, a Marine who was killed in Iraq in 2004.
Mr. Arredondo and another bystander quickly applied a makeshift tourniquet on a man with a lower leg amputation. Meanwhile, Roupen Bastajian, a Rhode Island state trooper and a former Marine who had already finished the marathon, began applying tourniquets to the legs of several other victims. He joined National Guardsmen who were on the scene to provide crowd control assistance before bombs tore through the crowd. Some were on hand after finishing the marathon with 40-pound rucks on their backs. Their role quickly became a rescue effort.
Team Red, White and Blue, a Veterans group that brings together Vets and civilians through sports, had 17 of its members on hand at the marathon. One member used his shirt to provide aid to another bystander—quick thinking that seems to come natural to people experienced with complex and traumatic situations.
It’s barely been 24 hours since the attacks, and there’s still a lot we don’t know about what happened. One thing we do know is this: because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are many people in the country that are skilled in treating traumatic injuries like amputations and traumatic brain injuries. Physicians have a larger breadth of knowledge about these injuries than a dozen years ago, and lessons learned from the wars undoubtedly saved many lives in operating rooms in and around Boston.
But there’s another consequence of two long insurgent campaigns, where horrific bombings and amputations are regrettably too common. They have produced hundreds of thousands of men and women who respond to emergency situations quickly, effectively, and with tremendous compassion. Monstrous acts like the marathon bombing are only effective when good people fail to respond in that manner.
Team RWB has already vowed to keep that idea going strong. They are planning response runs to show solidarity for the victims of the bombings—and to show the country their skills and experiences are lifelong imprints that in any moment could save another.
Photo courtesy Team Red, White and Blue.