While the investigation into the bombings at this year’s Boston Marathon is still in its early stages, one thing is clear: This was by definition, a terrorist attack. We just don’t know the who or the why yet.
What is also clear is that in the midst of violence and mayhem, compassion, heroism and love outshine hatred. The image of first responders running towards the explosions rather than away from them will always stay with me. Examples of kindness abound in reaction to the tragedy. From thousands of runners rushing to local hospitals to donate blood for the injured to people offering up beds and couches in their own homes, to local restaurants telling patrons they only need pay if they could. So many stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
The iconic image of Carlos Arredondo depicts one example of many acts of heroism caught on film.
Carlos Arredondo is no stranger to tragedy. In 2004, Arredondo’s son, Marine Lance Cpl. Alexander S. Arredondo, died in battle in Najaf, Iraq. When Marines arrived on his 44th birthday to deliver the news, Arredondo climbed into the Marine van with a torch and a can of gasoline from his garage. He proceeded to douse the van and set it on fire, severely burning himself in the process.
In 2007, the New York Times wrote a story of a distraught man in a makeshift mobile memorial in the back of his pickup. There was a coffin containing his son’s favorite possessions and photos of his son ranging from those depicting a happy teenager to a fully outfitted battlefield warrior to a body in a coffin.
His grieving brought him national attention. In that same year, Arredondo was publicly beaten during an anti-war demonstration in Washington.
Just before Christmas, 2011, Carlos’ other son, Brian, 24, took his own life as U.S. troops were withdrawing from the war that left his brother dead.
“We are broken people”, Carlos Arredondo told the Boston Herald.
But broken, damaged people aren’t the same as broken, damaged things. Broken things are tossed aside, no longer useful or desirable. With broken people, their own pain often fuels their compassion for others who are broken. Even broken and bloodied.