April 17, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Two friends honoring courage display theirs

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com
Columnist

(Continued from page 1)

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An emergency responder and volunteers, including Carlos Arredondo in the cowboy hat, push Jeff Bauman Jr. in a wheelchair after he was wounded in an explosion near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday.

The Associated Press

FOR MORE COVERAGE, visit our special section on the Boston bombings.

“Look at all the tragedy this guy’s been through all his life,” Mixon said. “I’m surprised he can get up every day and put one foot in front of the other – never mind race to help other people.”

Moments before the first explosion, Mixon moved from his seat in the finish-line grandstand down to the front row to toss a bag of clothing to one of five runners from his organization who ran in the marathon. Arredondo was just behind him.

Then, just after the race clock passed the four-hour mark, it happened.

“The fire ... and the noise,” recalled Arredondo. “Then the smoke.”

While others around him stood paralyzed, Arredondo sprinted across Boylston Street and clambered over the barriers of snow fencing and metal scaffolding. Seconds later, Mixon shook himself out of his shock and followed.

“My intention was to help the people who are alive on the other side,” said Arredondo. “I know by being a member of the (American) Red Cross that this was serious. And when I don’t see anybody standing up and I see everybody on the floor, it was important to me to be on the other side as soon as I can because people can bleed off and die. So my first reaction was to jump on the other side, praying there wasn’t another bomb, and work on it.”

That’s when he came upon the man with no legs.

“I rip a T-shirt and I start putting two pieces in each leg to stop the bleeding,” he said. “And I concentrate on him, asking him his name and telling him he was going to be OK, to keep talking to me. I said, ‘My name is Carlos! I’m from Boston! What’s your name? Where you from?”

The man, ashen-faced and barely conscious, stared back at his rescuer in silence.

“He was barely awake,” said Arredondo.

Mixon, meanwhile, tried mightily to open a passageway through the barricades. But even after two National Guardsmen joined him, he said, the interlocked scaffolding barely budged.

“So we just decided to rip it up and pull it all over so people could just trample over it and get in there,” Mixon said.

Almost miraculously, wheelchairs began arriving from the nearby first-aid tent. Arredondo helped load the man with no legs into one, pulling hard on a makeshift tourniquet he’d fashioned from the T-shirt.
Mixon, the barrier now behind him, helped load another victim onto a wheelchair.

Minutes later, as police and emergency medical technicians flooded into the area, it was over. Mixon asked a policeman how he might still help – the officer told him the best thing he could do was evacuate the area.

So here they sat in a nearby apartment shared by Mixon’s daughter, Erica, and her Emerson College roommates – six blocks and only a few hours removed from the worst thing either man had ever beheld.

Arredondo quietly headed for the bathroom – at last – to scrub the blood from his hands. Mixon, transfixed by a video of the attack playing on his daughter’s laptop, mused that the more it all sank in, the less it surprised him.

“To be honest, I’ve been expecting something like this for awhile,” Mixon said. “Every time I’ve been in crowded places where there’s no security, I’m like, ‘You know, we’re letting our guard down.’ And what bigger stage than the Boston Marathon?”

Yet the questions remained: Exactly who commandeered that stage? And for what twisted reason?

Not far away, forensic investigators already were hard at work looking for pieces to that puzzle. Like the rest of us, all Mixon and Arredondo can do is wait for the tips, the clues and the gumshoe detective work that will attempt, once again, to explain the unexplainable.

But as darkness fell on this city Monday – the quiet still shattered every minute or two by the sound of police cruisers, their lights flashing and sirens blaring, tearing up and down the empty boulevards – the two men propelled into this mayhem by the fallout of war had no difficulty discerning the tragic irony of it all.

“We’re down here honoring these guys who stood up against terrorism,” said Mixon. “And here it happens right in front of us.”

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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