One of the most iconic photos to emerge from Monday's tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon is that of a man in a cowboy hat, rushing a victim who has had his legs blown off to safety.
The man in the cowboy hat is Carlos Arredondo. He is an anti-war activist who was at the race to honor his dead sons -- one of which was killed serving in Iraq. Arredondo was in Boston to hand out American flags in honor of fallen soldiers. By the end of the day, his last flag would be soaked in blood, used as a tourniquet to save one of the bomb victim's lives.
Arredondo's journey began in his Hollywood home in 2004 when he learned that his son had been killed in action on his second tour of duty.
In August of 2004, Arredondo's son Alex was killed in Iraq serving in the Marines in Operation Iraqi Freedom. When the family was visited by the Marines Corps Casualty Assistance Team who notified them of Alex's death, Carlos Arredondo, unable to bear the unthinkable, filled with rage, sadness, and turmoil, lost control.
According to the New York Times, Arredondo ran into the garage screaming, "No, no! It can't be my son!"
He grabbed a gallon of gasoline, a propane torch and a sledgehammer.
Arredondo ran outside and proceeded to smash the Marine's truck and windshield. When they tried to intervene, he doused the vehicle and himself with the gasoline, and lit the torch. There was an explosion.
The Marines were able to pull him to safety, but not before Arredondo had suffered second- and third-degree burns over 20 percent of his body.
His recovery took a year. When he was back on his feet, Arredondo dedicated his life as an anti-war activist, driving around the country in Alex's pick up truck, sharing his burden, educating others, not allowing people to forget his son and his sacrifice.
Then, four years later, the unspeakable happened a second time. Arredondo's surviving son committed suicide at age 24.
At the finish line of the Boston Marathon where Arredondo, now 53, had come to honor his dead sons, a horrid and sudden explosion rocked the area, sending shrapnel and smoke and chaos everywhere.
He was standing across the street from the explosion, enveloped in the acrid smoke, staring at the pools of blood and limbs that had scattered the area.
Arredondo then spotted a young man in a gray shirt, trying to stand up. His legs had been blown off in the blast.
Arredondo immediately sprinted towards the man, his cowboy hat firmly tucked down on his head, when the second blast went off.
Undeterred, Arredondo kept his gaze on the victim, all the time knowing he had to get to him. He had to help him. No matter what.
When he got to the man, Arredondo told him, "My name's Carlos, you're going to be OK, help is on the way.'"
Arredondo grabbed a sweater, tore it, and made a quick tourniquet. He tied it around the man's thigh, just above his knee where there was nothing but blood, tangled flesh and the man's tibia protruding out from the open wound. He made another tourniquet for the other leg. He then grabbed a wheelchair and placed the man into it. He ran.
They rushed through the crowd and the smoke and the chaos, to one of the marathon medical tents. The tents had been meant to serve as a place for dehydrated runners to recover. Now it was a makeshift hospital.
The young man was taken in by medical personnel. He was badly injured and bleeding profusely. But he was going to make it. The tourniquets and Arredondo's swift response had saved him.
Arredondo had come to the Boston Marathon to hand out flags and honor his sons. At the end of the day, he would be forever fixed in one of the most striking and dramatic photographs captured on this day of tragedy. The photo speaks of calamity, heroism and selflessness.
It speaks of a man in a cowboy hat who had come to the marathon in the shadow of unshakable grief. A man who would ultimately be the face of resiliency for us all.
The death of his sons had brought Carlos Arredondo from Hollywood, to the Boston Marathon's finish line, where he would save a man's life.
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