After the Boston Marathon bombings, a soon-to-be iconic photograph emerged of a man in a cowboy hat who would become a hero to wounded runners.
That man, Carlos Arredondo, came to South Florida Monday where he was honored for his heroism at a Spanish-language channel taping at the Gusman Center in downtown Miami.
His visit was a homecoming of sorts. Arredondo was living in Hollywood in August of 2004 when he set a Marine van on fire, out of agony, after learning his son was killed in Iraq.
Since then, he moved to Boston with his wife and has dedicated his life to helping others as he helps himself.
At the marathon, he was handing out American flags to runners and was cheering on a competitor who was running in honor of his slain son when he heard the blasts.
“All the people that was there, suddenly, disappear. Suddenly disappear from my sight, and I say, ‘Oh my god this trouble here. This is something serious,’” Arredondo recalled.
As many people scattered from the scene, Arredondo, Boston police officers, and other Good Samaritans ran toward the wounded victims. Many were cut with jagged pieces of metal.
“When I jumped the second barrier, all I saw was a lot of people everywhere on the floor and I just went into action,” he said.
Soon, he spotted Jeff Bauman, the runner who had both legs blown off in the explosions. He said he knew Bauman needed attention immediately.
“We literally ripped these metal fences out of the way in order to make room for the nursing staff we had at the medical tents to get in. And he jumped over and started rendering aid to Jeff,” said Boston Police officer Javier Pagan.
Since the bombings, Arredondo has met the president of his home country of Costa Rica, shaken hands with Boston law enforcement brass, and attended a Boston Celtics playoffs game. He has collected signatures from those he’s met and is in the process of compiling a scrapbook for Bauman, who he has already visited in the hospital four times.
He said lifesaving is a mutual endeavor.
“It goes both ways, you know. By helping somebody I'm helping myself -- and that's pretty much how I've been taking care of myself all this time,” Arredondo said.