Images of Costa Rican Carlos Arredondo running alongside and helping a critically injured man during the Boston blasts on Monday made hundreds of newspapers and TV news shows around the world.
Other pictures show Arredondo, 52, carrying a small U.S. flag covered in blood. He was one of hundreds of thousands of bystanders who attended the Boston Marathon, there to watch National Guardsmen run the race in honor of fallen soldiers, including his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Alexander Arredondo, 20, who died in battle in Iraq in 2004.
His other son, Brian, committed suicide in 2011 at age 24. Carlos himself was seriously injured when he accidentally set himself on fire while trying to burn the van of military officers who came to inform him – on his 44th birthday – that Alexander had been killed by a sniper in Najaf, Iraq.
Carlos survived, and he and his wife, Mélida, became outspoken opponents of the Iraq war, traveling the country in his fallen son’s truck to promote peace. The Tico Times profiled him in 2012.
The Washington Post reported that just seconds after the blasts Arredondo “ran across Boylston Street, jumped the security fence and landed in the middle of fallen bodies.”
“Stay still, the ambulance is here,” Arredondo told a man whose legs had been blown off. Another picture shows Arredondo running down Boylton street while pushing the injured man in a wheelchair, yelling “Ambulance! Ambulance! Ambulance!” According to Reddit and Mother Jones, that man is 27-year-old Jeff Bauman, Jr., from Chelmsford, Massachusetts. He is in critical, but stable, condition at Boston Medical Center after having both of his lower legs amputated. Arredondo likely helped save his life.
“When the smart thing to do was run away, many ran into the smoke instead,” The Washington Post reported, referring to Arredondo and others who rushed to help victims despite the potential for further explosions.
Arredondo is a Tico who has lived in the United States since 1980. On Tuesday morning, the Arredondo family received dozens of calls from U.S. media, including major TV personalities such as Katie Couric.
He said he had acted out of instinct, using training he had received as a fireman and a rescuer of injured bullfighters in Costa Rica.
After delivering Bauman to emergency personnel, Arredondo went to find his own wife, who waved her American flag, as a signal to him, in front of the Boston Public Library. They both returned to their home in Roslindale, an outer area of Boston. Arredondo, who is visibly shaken in a video interview (see below), said he continued trembling throughout the night.
Also on Tuesday, citizens started a petition to grant Arredondo the Presidential Citizens Medal for exemplary deeds. The goal is to reach 100,000 signatures by May 16.
AFP contributed to this story.