In the first moments of surreal chaos after the Boston Marathon bombing, Carlos Arredondo rushed in to help.
“Everybody was on the floor, there was blood everywhere, people crying, asking for help,” Arredondo said during a visit to Miami this week.
Arredondo became a symbol of civilian courage, highly visible because he was wearing a cowboy hat. The iconic photo of the cowboy helping rush a man to safety has been seen all over the world. The victim was Jeff Bauman. The explosion shredded both of Bauman's legs, but Arredondo stopped the bleeding with tourniquets made from ripped T-shirts.
“He’s been very grateful to me, we just been developing a friendship now,” Arredondo said.
Arredondo is a man scarred, too, but he’s wounded inside. His son Alex, a U.S. Marine, was killed in Iraq in 2004.
“Jeff Bauman is 27 years old, my son Alexander would be 27 years old, too, you know, so it’s like my own son, you know for a strange way, I ended up rescuing this young man at the same age as my son Alex and only God knows why,” Arredondo said.
There is another famous image associated with Carlos Arredondo. Nine years ago, in a fit of rage and grief, he set the Marines’ van ablaze when they came to his house in Hollywood to tell him Alex had died in combat. The video of the flaming vehicle played on television stations across the nation.
Coming back to South Florida isn’t easy for him
“i’m here in Miami right now and of course the memories always come to my mind. I never going to forget what happen there,” Arredondo said during an interview in a downtown hotel.
Arredondo carved Alex’s grave marker, buried him near Boston, and then a few years later, his younger son, Brian, committed suicide, unable to get over his brother’s death. Arredondo says he felt the presence of his sons as he helped victims at the marathon.
“My son Alex and my son Brian, both of them would be very proud of the way I respond, you know, and they look after me all the time,” Arredondo said.
In a way, Alex and Brian saved a life at the explosion. Carlos happened to be there to support a runner in a suicide prevention group and to cheer for a soldier who was running in memory of Alex. Now he wears “Bauman strong” bracelets to honor his new friend. Arredondo was passing out American flags near the finish line, and would not have been there at all had it not been for his sons.
“That’s correct. I was there because i had two people honoring my sons, that’s the reason I was there, you know, but life works in strange ways. I was there to honor, at the same time they was honoring my family, then I went to honor someone else by rescuing him,” Arredondo said.