Saturday, April 20, 2013

Remember the Heroes: Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman

The Boston Bombing is leaving us with many decisions to make, among them how to talk about it, and when, and how.

My proposal is that no matter what else we do, unless circumstances actively force us to do so we should never again mention the names of these two men:

They had everything going for them and instead of making anything worthwhile out of their lives, they decided to seek significance by destroying other people's lives. They don't deserve to be remembered as anything other than two blurry images, as Suspect One and Suspect Two. Period. Suspect One is dead. Suspect Two is in custody. They are now the problem of investigators and prosecutors. All the evil that they did, they did to get our attention. Well, screw them. They're not getting it.

We say, "Remember the victims" and "Remember the heroes," but part of what makes that so difficult in such a massive event is that there are just so many. I propose that we choose two iconic examples, two men, and remember them.

The man in the cowboy hat is Carlos Arredondo. Carlos had been  a spectator, passing out little American flags. The injured man is Jeff Bauman. Jeff had been at the marathon to cheer on his girlfriend.

The iconic photo of bystander helping victim would be striking enough to make these two men far more worth remembering than the suspects whose evil act brought them together. But the story goes even further than that.

Carlos was himself a wounded man. An immigrant from Costa Rica, Carlos had been so devastated at the news that his son Alex had been killed in Iraq that he went inside the van of the Marines bringing the news and set himself on fire. Two years later, his second son committed suicide. This is a man that had been dealt blow after blow, but rather than allow himself to fall into helplessness or despair, became a peace activist, dedicated to preserving the memories of fallen servicemen. It was in that role that he was at the marathon, cheering on a man who was marching the marathon carrying a heavy rucksack in honor of Alex. When the bomb went off, Carlos ran. Toward the danger. Toward the young man whose life he would help to save.

Jeff was just an all-American guy living an ordinary life. He worked at Costco, played the guitar, enjoyed sports, and was saving money to study civil engineering.When the bomb went off, Jeff went down. At first, he was in total shock, unaware of the extent of his own injuries, pleading with rescuers to help his friends first. He was loaded into a wheelchair, rushed to an ambulance, rushed to the hospital.

It was there at the hospital that Jeff asked for a pencil and paper so he could scrawl eight words that would start him on the road from victim to hero: "Bag, saw the guy, looked right at me".

Still being treated for devastating wounds, an ordinary young man began telling the FBI about the man in the sunglasses who looked him in the eye, set a bag at his feet, and walked off. Less than three minutes later, the bomb inside that bag exploded. With Jeff's help, investigators were able to look through video and identify the man in the sunglasses and the man who was with him: Suspect 1 and Suspect 2.

Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman are my heroes, two ordinary men who rose above tragedy and devastation to demonstrate everything that is good and brave and loving and resilient in the human spirit. It is my vow to them that the names of Suspect One and Suspect Two will never cross my lips. When the Boston bombing is mentioned, I sill speak two names in awed respect and admiration. Here's to you, Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman.

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