After saving the life of Jeff Bauman and becoming a figure of strength and bravery in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Carlos Arredondo and his cowboy hat rode a wave of media coverage, guest appearances and accolades as his heroism reached an even larger audience.
Arredondo, a 53-year-old Costa Rican immigrant, wasn’t at the marathon last April to cheer on a friend or family member, however.
“I was there because of two people,” he said to FOXSports.com. “I was going on behalf of my sons.”
Arredondo’s oldest son Alex, a U.S. Marine, was killed in Iraq in 2004. In 2011, Arredondo’s youngest son, then-24-year-old Brian, took his own life as a result of the continued devastation he felt over the loss of his older brother as well as suffering from depression and drug abuse problems.
Two years later, Arredondo was handing out miniature American flags to spectators around the finish line as part of his work with suicide prevention and veterans groups.
When the explosions rocked Boylston Street and people began to flee, Arredondo ran toward the carnage. People were hurt, and he thought he might be able to help them.
That’s where he found Bauman, missing the lower halves of his legs and in need of immediate medical care. Arredondo tied Bauman’s legs off with a sweater, placed him in a wheelchair and started toward the medical tent turned triage center.
Bauman’s injuries were so severe that he was taken straight to the back of an ambulance, which Arredondo helped place him in before it sped away.
Somewhere in this frenzy, the iconic picture of Arredondo with the grievously injured Bauman and accompanied by first responders was snapped, and Arredondo’s life changed forever.
In the whirlwind of interviews, tours, talks and appearances that followed, he was lauded as a hero.
But for Arredondo, that title belongs to people like Bauman, first responders and the police. That title also belongs to his sons, whose deaths motivated Arredondo to pursue ways to help others.
“I want everybody to know we have the capacity to help one another and share in times of grief,” Arredondo said. “It’s important to be human.”