Yesterday afternoon, New Times received this e-mail in response to our story highlighting Carlos Arredondo, now famous as the cowboy--hat-wearing man helping an injured man in a wheelchair to receive medical help after the Boston marathon bombings.
(The injured man was later identified as Jeff Bauman. The New York Times located him and reported that both of his legs were amputated.)
Dear Editor of the story on Carlos Arredondo...
You have just answer one of my many prayers.
My name is Adriana and I grew up in Weston,Fl. I've lived in Boston for the past year and yesterday I was lucky enough to volunteer at the Medical Tent at the Boston Marathon. I registered the patient that Mr.Arredondo helped to bring in the tent and I can only remember how helpful and calm he was during the whole process, he was helping me to get the patients last name and age. Out of all the people I saw either patients runner and victims he was one that stood out the most.
I just want you to pass along the message that I am very grateful and thankful to have come across such a great person. If people like him that others have to remember to keep hope in humanity.
I wish to have the opportunity to thank him in person. I wish him the very best. he is definitely an angel and on behalf of every volunteer I thank him so much.
We reached Camacho, who sounded remarkably composed, warm and upbeat as she was getting off the Boston subway ("the T"). She told her story via phone as ambulance sirens went off the background.
Camacho says she is originally from Colombia and graduated from Cypress Bay High School ("Loud and proud!") and then from Florida International University in Miami in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in psychology. After having visited Boston to visit her best friend who lived there, she moved to the city last year in hopes of attending graduate school. In the meantime, she landed a job at Boston Medical Center.
"This is my city. I absolutely love it," she said. "I love Miami, I miss Miami, but I love it here."
Through work, the 24-year-old met and joined a group that volunteers medical care during disasters. She declined to name the group, but was got chosen to be part of their team assisting at the Boston Marathon.
"It's all I talked about for the past month," she says.
During the race, "I was near the entrance. It was an amazing experience. Everyone was really calm. BAA [Boston Athletic Association] is an outstanding organization to admire. We had the best of the best [on scene] -- every hospital, Boston PD."
"I was closer to the first [blast.] The medical tent was after the finish line. If I peeked out from the tent, I could see the flags where it went off. I heard it; I felt it."
After the blast, "It was crazy, it was chaotic, very much like a movie. It froze. Everyone stood still and prepared for the worst. Many of us saw the worst. From there on, it was hard to give specifics. It was a very unique experience."
In the first two minutes following the blast, about 30 people came into the tent, Camacho says. Her duty was to register patients.
"[Arredondo] came in with [Bauman]. It just impacted me -- you could tell it was just a stranger. I had to get the last name and age of the victim and he helped me through it. There was something about his presence. It felt like strength. He was there until they pushed [Bauman] into the ambulance."
The patient, she says, "was in shock -- it took us a lot to get his last name. It was pure psychological shock. I'm sure he couldn't even explain a pain level -- your body simply can't feel. It was dead silence, just completely. His vision, his eyes, had long stares. I looked into his eyes. I thanked him. I thanked him for his last name."
Camacho says she also helped two sisters -- one of them had a broken leg -- and another mid-20s male who had lost both of his legs as well.
"Those were the three I had the most contact with," she says, but there were "people in wheelchairs, people with head injuries, arms bleeding, cuts, scrapes, bones sticking out. I'm in shock myself. Everyone needs to take it in. Everyone deals with it differently. It's horrific, its traumatic. I wish I could come up with medical terminology to describe it but everything I reviewed, everything I was tested on, everything my passion led me to - this was a living textbook explanation in person. What I witnessed was an incredible experience that comes with the territory of this field."
She said that her group was dismissed from the area, and she moved a few blocks away and helped pass out blankets and sheets to runners who had been on the course and were still running into downtown finishing the race. Even two hours after the blast, she was helping confused runners find buses.
Camacho says she wants to pursue art therapy or substance abuse counseling. "I want to help counsel, in any way shape or form."
"Why didn't I leave? I could have but help was needed."
She added, while starting to cry, "One thing that I will definitely write on my Facebook is that so many people have lost faith in humanity - but I see it the other way around. Humanity is based on everyone that helps. Just because one act destroys hope, it doesn't mean your view of humanity should be based on bad acts. It should be based on people like Carlos, like every doctor that took the day off to work at the tent expecting runners, not injured people missing legs. You have to see the other face of the coin to realize there is hope."
That night, she read the news, got back to friends, got back to family, went to bed "and counted my blessings. I feel safe," she said, composed again. "I still feel safe. I chose to move here for me. Everyone just has to keep on trucking along." She intends to stay in Boston, but "you never know -- if i have to pick up things and go anywhere else where I am meant to be... Help is needed everywhere."
To Carlos, she wanted to say, "thank you - I read about his story and my heart goes out to him. He deserves the recognition. Just his presence -- there was not an ounce of weakness in him -- his vibe. He's incredible."
"You cant let these things bring you down. Life continues. You can't stay in dark shadow -- it'll eat you alive. I took a day off and I'll cry it out as many times as I need to. But this city is amazing."