The aftermath of many public disasters sees the swift emergence of a public hero to counterpoint the tragedy. With the Boston Marathon explosions, this person is even more extraordinary than usual: a cowboy-hatted peace campaigner and bereaved father called Carlos Arredondo.
The 52-year-old Costa Rican immigrant is visible in a series of photos and videos taken immediately after the twin blasts near the race finish line. The distinctive, long-haired figure sprints across the street to tear away fencing and scaffolding to get to victims. Reports said he used his own clothes and towels to try to staunch bleeding.
In one particularly graphic photograph, Arredondo can be seen seemingly pinching shut the end of an artery on the part-severed leg of a man being carried away in a wheelchair. "I kept talking to him. I kept saying: 'Stay with me, stay with me,'" Arredondo told the newspaper Maine Today.
Another image shows him carrying away a small, blood-soaked American flag.
Arredondo's story appears equally dramatic and harrowing. He was reportedly waiting at the finish to greet a runner who was competing in the race in memory of his son, Alexander Arredondo, a lance corporal in the US marines who was killed by a sniper in 2004 in Iraq. Carlos Arredondo, a self-employed handyman, reacted to the news by attempting to set fire to himself inside a van, suffering severe burns.
He subsequently became a peace campaigner, in part in remembrance of his son. A 2007 New York Times story recounted how Arredondo took a pickup truck around the country, carrying a flag-draped coffin and photos and mementos of Alexander, including a football and his Winnie the Pooh toy. "As long as there are marines fighting and dying in Iraq, I'm going to share my mourning with the American people," he told the paper.
In December 2011, Alexander's younger brother Brian, then 24, who had become depressed after the first family tragedy and begun using drugs, killed himself.
Video footage shot after the blasts shows Arredondo, still gripping the blood-soaked flag, shaking in shock as he describes the scene to people on the street. He said the apparent cause of the blast was an improvised explosive device.
Even with all the madness of yesterday, it's good to know that we live in the best country on the planet. I'm proud to live here with dudes like Carlos. (Jeff)