Yesterday’s New York Times ran a story about Jeff Bauman, the young man in the iconic photograph from the Boston bombing. Grievously wounded, he survived because of the heroic actions of a stranger in a cowboy hat:
The Baumans [Jeff's parents] knew how lucky Jeff had been. “The man in the cowboy hat — he saved Jeff’s life,” Ms. Bauman said. Mr. Bauman’s eyes widened. He said: “There’s a video where he goes right to Jeff, picks him right up and puts him on the wheelchair and starts putting the tourniquet on him and pushing him out. I got to talk to this guy!”
The man in the cowboy hat, Carlos Arredondo,, 52, had been handing out American flags to runners when the first explosion went off. His son Alexander was a Marine killed in Iraq in 2004, and in the years since he has handed out the flags as a tribute.
With the first blast, Mr. Arredondo jumped over the fence and ran toward the people lying on the ground. What happened next, he later recounted to a reporter: He found a young man, a spectator, whose shirt was on fire. He beat out the flames with his hands. The young man, who turned out to be Jeff Bauman, had lost the lower portion of both legs. He took off a shirt and tied it around the stump of one leg. He stayed with Mr. Bauman, comforting him, until emergency workers came to help carry him to an ambulance.
…On Tuesday afternoon, the Baumans wondered what had become of the man in the cowboy hat. They wanted to tell him that their son was alive, that he was moving his arms and legs.
Arredondo’s own story is one of terrible loss; when his son was killed in Iraq, he tried to take his own life. It is worth reading for the ways that the very worst that can happen can, mysteriously, turn into something ELSE. Arredondo, in an unexpected moment, ran into the fray to help someone else’s beloved son, and reminded a shocked and grieving nation that there is fierce courage and generosity all around us.