Families of 9/11 victims shared their grief and remembrances with victims of the Boston Marathon terrorists attacks Wednesday morning, and honored a Roslindale man who hurdled over a barricade to save a young man whose legs were blown off in the bombings.
Carlos Arredondo, known as the hero in the cowboy hat, was awarded the Madeline “Amy” Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery for his actions at the finish line of the marathon. Sweeney, a Concord resident, was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11 who conveyed critical information about the plane’s hijackers to ground services before the plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
Arredondo was watching the race from the bleachers on Boylston Street when the first bomb went off. He was at the marathon to pass out American flags in memory of his son who was killed while fighting in Iraq.
Without hesitation, he sprinted to the bombing site, where he saw a pool of blood and a young man in a gray shirt in front of him trying to stand up, but his legs were gone. Using a sweater he spotted on the ground within his reach, Arredondo made a tourniquet for the man’s legs, and then grabbed a nearly wheelchair, Major General Scott Rice told the crowd gathered in the House chamber for the 9/11 ceremony.
Arredondo raced Jeff Bauman to the medical tent while continuing to hold what remained of his legs. His actions saved Bauman’s life.
Bauman was sitting in the chamber for the ceremony, and hugged Arredondo on his way to accept the award.
Rice said Arredondo exemplifies “the courage of the American spirit.”
Arredondo said Sept. 11, 2001 unites everyone.
“Today, I receive this award for civilian bravery named for Madeline Amy Sweeney. She would have said she was just doing her job, according to her husband Michael Sweeney,” Arredondo said. “On April 15th of this year, I was doing my duty as a human being, reaching out to love and aid strangers around me” in pain.
Arredondo said he smiles when he sees survivors healing.
“I realize my own two sons, Alex and Brian, are proud of me as they see me from heaven,” he said.
He said he was accepting the award of behalf of all the first responders, and for all parents who lost a child in wars, street violence, or suicide. Arredondo lost his second son as a result of his first son’s death, according to Rice.
“There are days when a person doesn’t want to get up after the death of a loved one, many of them. Somehow I made it to the marathon that day myself. And I’m glad I helped the best I could,” Arredondo said.
The award honors “ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” Secretary of Public Safety Andrea Cabral said. Cabral said what she witnessed that day from citizens, marathon volunteers and first responders “renewed my faith in humanity.”
Anna Sweeney told the crowd she was only 5-years-old when her mother was killed by terrorists. She said she will never forget that Tuesday morning when her father told her “mom’s plane was taken by bad guys and a lot of people are gone,” she said.
“My family remembers with pride what my mother was able to do on that fateful day,” Sweeney said.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis told families affected by Sept. 11 and the marathon attacks that their loved ones are more than victims because what they were doing when they were killed was standing up for American principles and a way of life.
“Not far from here on a hill in Charlestown over 200 years ago citizen soldiers stood up to tyranny to create a new nation. That new nation was dedicated to certain principles that we observe until this day,” Davis said. “On September 11th those principles were attacked.”
Davis said the nation would never forget the losses.
“Just a few months ago, on the streets of Boston that tragedy revisited us. We lost lives; people were grievously wounded in an attack on our nation,” Davis said.
Along with hundreds of injuries, four people were killed during the marathon and in the days following - Krystal Campbell, 29, Martin Richard, 8, Lu Lingzi, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student, and MIT police officer Sean Collier.
Bill Richard, father of 8-year-old Martin, thanked the 9/11 families for sharing their day, after reading the poem “We Sit Beneath the Night Sky.”
During the ceremony, Juliette Candela, who lost her father on Sept. 11, sang Sarah McLachlan’s song “I Will Remember You,” before a video was shown remembering victims from the Boston area.
Pictures of smiling people on vacation, in wedding photos, and posing with their children flashed up on the screen, as voices of family detailed memories of their loved ones, followed by scenes of families volunteering in food pantries, building affordable homes, or volunteering in blood drives.