When the explosions went off at around 3PM on April 15 at the Boston Marathon, many people were in a state of panic over the state of loved ones attending the race. For one father, Jeff Bauman Sr., it was a nightmare as he tried to call his son’s cell phone over and over again. His son, Jeff Bauman Jr., was at the finish line cheering on his girlfriend during her first go at the famous race. The elder Bauman’s calls were never answered, and the younger Bauman is now the subject of an iconic photograph and a double amputee.
Mr. Bauman’s step-daughter, Erika Schneider, was the first to break the news of Jeff’s injuries over the phone.
“Did you see the picture?” She added, “Jefferey’s on the news. He got hurt.”
“Are you sure? Are you sure?” He shouted.
“Yes! Yes! I’m sure!” she shouted back.
The picture to which she referred was the one that is now the most widely used image from the explosions, showing a man in a cowboy hat helping emergency workers with a young man whose legs were destroyed by the blast.
Mr. Bauman found photo on Facebook, and immediately began calling area hospitals to find his son, whom he finally located at Boston Medical Center. He and his wife reached Jeff by 8PM, but the surgery had already been performed.
Jeff had lost both legs at the knee and underwent two surgeries as a result. The first was the double amputation; the second was to drain internal fluids caused by the blunt trauma. He was the first casualty brought in from the bombing, and the man in the cowboy hat literally saved his life.
That man was Carlos Arrendondo, a 52-year-old man who lost his son, Alexander, while he was serving as a Marine in Iraq in 2004. Every year since, he has handed out American flags at the finish line as a tribute to his son.
When the first blast went off, Arredondo jumped over the security fence and ran directly into the carnage, where he found Jeff with his shirt on fire. He beat out the flames with his bare hands, took off his shirt and tied it around the stump of Jeff’s leg. He stayed with Jeff and provided comfort until emergency workers arrived to help.
Later, Arrendondo–the hero in the cowboy hat–went to visit Jeff in the hospital.
“He was happy to see me, and I was happy to see him,” Arredondo said. “He’s been in a lot of pain, but I’m just trying to lift his mood, make him laugh. I brought him a dress hat.”
Jeff had also become quite a hero himself at that point. Immediately after waking up from sedation in the hospital, Jeff asked for a pen and paper and wrote, “Bag, saw the guy, looked right at me.” He helped authorities identify the man who’d placed the bomb right at Jeff’s feet just minutes before it exploded.
The internet responded quickly to help Jeff, who is uninsured, with his medical bills by creating a Go Fund Me site called “Bucks for Bauman!” The goal of the site is to raise $1 million for Jeff’s hospital and rehab bills, and to date has raised over $760,000.
While Jeff has a long road to recovery, he owes his life to Arrendondo, who does not consider himself a hero. We think Arrendondo’s Marine son would be very proud of his father.