Of the many ordinary citizens unwittingly thrust into a horrific and chaotic situation in the immediate aftermath of the explosions that rocked the Boston Marathon on Monday, photographs of Carlos Arredondo—'that man in the hat'—rushing towards victims and then escorting one gravely wounded man to safety, have pushed the dedicated peace activist into the national spotlight in the tragedy's wake.
Arredondo—who has campaigned for an end to US wars abroad since his son, Alexander Arredondo, was killed in Iraq in 2004—found himself near the finish line when the bombs exploded and an AP photographer, as well as others, captured his actions as he rushed to help those who fell injured.
"I jumped the fence after the first explosions and all I saw was a puddle of blood and people with lost limbs,' he told ABC News. "I saw adults, much younger than myself—ladies, men, pretty much everyone was knocked out."
As The Guardian's Peter Walker reports:
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 [a local newspaper].
Another image shows him carrying away a small, blood-soaked American flag.
Following the death of his son, Arrendondo spent the ensuing years traveling the country, attending peace rallies and vigils, often displaying a provocative shrine to Alexander which included a casket, his uniform, and combat boots.
Tragedy befell Arrendondo again in 2011, when in his second son, Brian, committed suicide following a battle with depression and drug use.
This footage from Monday shows Arredondo, still visibly shaking, describe the scene he witnessed:
And The Independent adds:
Carlos Arredondo had already been in the news in 2004 when - upon hearing of his soldier son's death in Iraq - he locked himself in a van with five gallons of gasoline and a propane torch, and set the van on fire.
The Costa Rican immigrant survived, became a peace activist and was at the marathon supporting a group of runners who had dedicated their race to fallen soldiers.
When the bomb went off yesterday, he was seen in his stetson hat climbing among the wreckage and later helping speed a wounded victim to an ambulance in a wheelchair.
Afterwards the 52-year-old told a reporter for NECN news: "My instinct was to run across by the flags and start picking up people and bringing them to the emergency room."
Arredondo, along with his wife Mélida, joined Democracy Now! by phone on Tuesday to speak about Monday's events: