Run On: The Boston Marathon’s First Responders

On Marathon Monday, these first responders and the countless others they represent gave new meaning to Patriots’ Day. These are their stories, in their words.



By Hannah Lott-Schwartz & Hannah Sheinberg. Photographed by John Huet. Behind-the-scenes photos by the Improper staff.  Shot on location at Exposure Place Studios at EP Levine, Waltham.

John Andersen, 54, BAA medical-tent coordinator; middle-school science teacher

A volunteer, Andersen used his microphone to keep the reaction focused while directing volunteers and other first responders at the finish-line medical tent.

Andersen: I worked the microphone in the medical tent “A,” which was at the finish line. I provided direction to all the volunteers and a calming voice to keep everyone focused on the patients. All I tried to do is be that calming voice.

People did not care about themselves; they ran and did what they could to help the injured. People put others first.

I’ve been a volunteer for 19 years with my wife and will continue to do it for another 19 years or more. I’ve always felt it’s important to give back to the community. This is my small way of giving back to the athletic community of Boston. This year, I felt the most grateful to be involved.

I’m proud to say that I’m from Boston. I was proud of it before the events of April 15, and I’m still proud to say I’m a Bostonian for life.

—As told to Hannah Lott-Schwartz

Lucas Carr, 33, runner; arborist, former Army Ranger

Carr finished the Marathon minutes before the explosions, then returned to the first bomb site to apply tourniquets.

Carr: I started Marathon Monday by lacing up my running shoes for the Boston Bruins Foundation. I finished the Marathon at 4 hours, 3 minutes, which was at 2:45 pm. Upon receiving my medal, the first bomb went off. It was a sound all too familiar. I remember just looking up to the sky and asking why. It was odd because I was telling someone what an explosion sounded like two days before. I ran back to the first bomb site. I administered and retied tourniquets, administered aid, moved people safely out of the kill zone and just did what I was trained to do. The first responders, medical staff, Boston EMS and doctors were on point that day.

Boston is full of tradition, history and heritage. When something needs to be done it doesn’t take long for the city to come together. I’m proud to be part of this city because it’s were I was born, it’s where I live, and it’s what I fight for.

Seeing all the runners out there getting waved and beeped to the tune of “Keep on Running” right after the bombing, it just tells you that you’re gonna need to do more to put us down. This is our community, this is our home, and this is how we fight!

I will participate in many more marathons. It’s a new bond now, something that has new meaning to the city and to the running world. We are the toughest city in the world.

—As told to Hannah Sheinberg

Fran Damian, 51, director of nursing/patient services at Boston Children’s Hospital’s emergency department

As the nurse in charge of BCH’s medical response, Damian managed the hospital’s actions and reunited families separated after the blasts.

Damian: I was the administrator on duty, so I was responsible to serve as the incident commander. In this role, I led incident command staff in managing the hospital response to the event, including staffing, security, communication with agencies and media, family reunification, and planning hospital operations for the upcoming shifts based on the best information we had.

The team of responders in the emergency department at BCH were assembled and prepared within minutes of notification, and clinical staff throughout the organization was arriving to deliver nursing and medical care to support the other emergency department patients and the patients arriving from the scene.

I feel so fortunate to live in Boston and am not surprised the community was so strong and put the needs of others first even in the face of personal threat and uncertainty of continued attacks.

I will certainly be a part of the Marathon again. It now represents so much about our city—the people as a community that cares and will stand strong and united.

I do believe that all first responders are heroes every single day. Clinical and support staff in first responder roles who were not on duty that day are heroes, too. It’s the team that builds the strength of each individual, and I am so proud to be a part of the Boston Children’s Hospital team.

—As told to Hannah Sheinberg

Brian Gray, 24, spectator; EMT-Intermediate at American Medical Response; Plympton firefighter

An off-duty EMT and firefighter spending the day with his girlfriend, Stefanie McLaughlin, Gray ran toward the bomb site and used his belt, shoelaces and zip ties to staunch the bleeding.

Gray: I was off duty with my girlfriend, Stefanie McLaughlin, at the time of the bombing. I heard the bomb go off as I was exiting a restaurant. I immediately hugged my girl and told her I loved her and then ran off into the smoke. My girlfriend ran in behind me without me noticing. I arrived at the first bomb site and applied numerous tourniquets to stop major bleeding of lower extremity injuries. I used my belt and shoelaces and zip ties in order to stop bleeding. I helped Boston EMS transport two priority patients to the hospital and then returned with them to the ambulance staging area. Shortly after I ran into my American Medical Response (AMR) supervisor and then the ambulance staging site was evacuated.

When we were walking down the street, I saw my operations manager and standing next to him was my girl. Mind you, at this time I had lost her and all communication with her for two hours. We both ran to each other and came into a full embrace, tears rolling down our faces. We both continued to stage with AMR until about 8:30 pm when we were released from Boston.

Stefanie McLaughlin, 21, spectator; EMT at American Medical Response; Plympton firefighter

Unbeknownst to her boyfriend, Brian Gray, McLaughlin followed him to the site, where she pulled people out of storefronts, assessed injuries and applied tourniquets.

McLaughlin: Boston is a city that is full of life and will stop at nothing to guarantee the safety and well being of its citizens. It was, and still is, amazing how everyone was willing to help and give care and sympathy to those who needed it. Everyone came together as a family and showed their support and pride.

—As told to Hannah Lott-Schwartz

Dr. Raul Guzman, 51, vascular surgeon at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Along with a team of physicians and nurses at the hospital, Guzman operated on patients injured by the blasts.

Guzman: It was remarkable to see so many people wanting to help in any way that they could—not only medical personnel, but it seemed that all Bostonians were eager to do their part to help out in this tragic situation.

The high level of care provided to patients on that day in our hospital and others throughout the city could not have been achieved without the extraordinary teamwork of nurses, doctors and health care personnel. They all deserve recognition and thanks.

—As told to Hannah Sheinberg

Chris Loper, 40, general manager at Forum

After the second bomb exploded, Loper and other staff members worked together to evacuate the restaurant and bring tourniquets, towels and ice to the injured.

Loper: I’ve been proud of Boston from the day I was born here because it’s my home. It’s where my friends and family are and will most likely always be. I love the city for the history, the wit and sarcasm of the people, the beauty of the neighborhoods, and the passion of everyone that calls it home. From April 15, 2013, through now, has simply been a justification of why I’m so fortunate to live here and be around the people of Boston.

The way we came together in the aftermath of 4/15 was extraordinary, and I couldn’t be more proud of the people I work with, the people in our restaurant and the first responders who were there to help.

I’ll be standing on the patio at Forum for the Marathon in 2014 with my co-workers and the amazing members of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation. Without those heroic people in my life, it would be difficult to move forward. For the rest of my life they will all hold a special place in my heart, and we will always be there for each other.

—As told to Hannah Sheinberg

Rachel McGuire, 31, Boston police officer

Seen in the iconic image on the cover of Sports Illustrated, McGuire was on duty, performing security at the finish line, when the first bomb exploded. She helped evacuate the area and secure the crime scene.

Kevin Meehan, 47, Boston firefighter with Engine 7 and Tower Ladder 17

Among the first to reach the scene, Meehan and his fellow firefighters treated critically injured victims.

Meehan: Boston’s a city that has heart like no other. Laugh, love, eat, play, fight, work—you name it, we do it 100 percent. And then there’s politics and sports, we get a little wound up about those, too.

I’m not a marathoner—10K is about it for me—but I’ll be watching as I have all of my life and will probably be working there, too. It’s one of our greatest traditions. It’s a true testament to Boston and to the people it produces and attracts.

—As told to Hannah Sheinberg

Peter Riddle, 44, board member at the Joe Andruzzi Foundation; vice president of talent management at Digitas

Riddle, who had been attending a Marathon party on the patio at Forum, carried injured patrons out of the restaurant for medical treatment.

Riddle: There’s a lot in Boston to be proud of as a city. Some of the world’s greatest universities and hospitals are here. The American Revolution began here, as did the high-tech industry. We have incredibly successful sports teams with a tradition of winning. Boston combines the best of the old with the best of the new. And how can you not love a city that brought you Dunkin’ Donuts!

I wasn’t surprised at all how people in Boston rallied around one another. It’s who we are. I’ve heard people from other parts of the country say how unfriendly and cold Bostonians and New Englanders are in general. But in a crisis, you couldn’t ask for more genuine, generous and compassionate people. We may not wear our hearts on our sleeves or crave the spotlight, but people all over Boston pitched in to help the victims in ways big and small. I’m not sure if it’s our Puritan heritage or the cold, brutal winters we have to endure, but people around here are tough, but with big hearts.

Like lots of other people, each year when I watch the Marathon I tell myself that I’m going to run it next year. Somehow that desire disappears in January when it’s so easy just to sleep in on a cold, snowy morning. But the events of this past year have really motivated me to run next year, for the first time, for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation.

—As told to Hannah Sheinberg

Betty Sparks, 56, BAA medical-tent volunteer; operating-room nurse at Newton-Wellesley Hospital

Sparks administered IVs and applied bandages at the site of the first explosion, then helped transport victims to the medical tent.

Sparks: I’ve been a nurse for more than 35 years. I’ve worked in the ICU, ER and presently in the OR at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. I’m also on the Disaster Medical Assistance Team, MA2-DMAT. I deployed with this team to many hurricanes, including Ivan, Katrina, Gustav and most recently Sandy. We also went to Haiti after the earthquake, where we preformed surgeries out of tents—a real M.A.S.H. unit.

I’ve volunteered for the past eight years with the BAA, where I’ve worked in the finish-line medical tent. I’ve always found this to be the best training in mass casualties that I can get. But this past year proved to be more training than I asked for.

I was having a fairly easy day in the med tent caring for runners who had cramps and blisters and a few of whom were dehydrated, needing IV fluid. My daughter-in-law, Amy, was running her first marathon. Her parents had come from Colorado to see her cross the finish line with her 19-month-old daughter, Mackenzie, in the stroller. My son, Scott, had just come to visit me outside of the med tent. I told him to go to the finish line so he could take a picture of Amy as she crossed, then I went back to work.

Not 10 minutes later, the first bomb went off. Then the next one. We were told to stay with our patients, but I texted Scott and asked him what the explosions were. Before he replied, a police officer was wheeled into the tent with a bandage around his head. The next announcement called for ER nurses and doctors to grab IV supplies and go to the finish line. I did just that. As I ran out, Jeff [Bauman] was being wheeled toward me, both his legs were gone. Next I saw a stretcher coming at me. They were performing CPR on Krystle [Campbell].

I called Scott and yelled into the phone for him to call me—I needed to know where he was. I didn’t know that the phones weren’t working at that time. I was now at the bomb site.

There were people lying on the ground bleeding. I remember trying not to slip and fall in the blood on the ground. I was asked to start IVs and to get a defibrillator, as CPR was being given to yet another victim. I also placed bandages on open wounds and helped transport victims into ambulances and wheelchairs so they could be brought to the medical tent. As I was helping to get a victim out of Marathon Sports, someone announced that they found another device, and we needed to evacuate the area quickly. We gathered the remaining victims and hurried them back to the med tent where we continued to treat their injuries until they could be transported to the hospitals. Not having medication to treat their immeasurable pain was very difficult for me.

The hardest part of the whole thing for me is wondering what I would have done if my son, Scott, was one of the victims lying on the ground when I got there. It turns out he was in front of Marathon Sports just before the bomb went off but couldn’t get a good spot to take a picture, so he left and was walking back toward the finish line when the bomb went off. He texted me to tell me he was safe, but I was too busy at the time to check my phone. They kept the doctors and nurses at the med tent for a while after the last victim left in case anything else happened. I did meet up with Amy, her parents and Mackenzie, but when Scott walked into the room all my reserve let go, and I collapsed into his arms and cried my eyes out. I’m very proud to have been a part of that amazing response.

I was amazed at how well everyone worked together to save all those individuals. There was no panic, just requests being yelled out and quickly responded to. As a matter of fact, it was kind of eerie-quiet for such a horrific scene.

Yes, I will be back on duty in the finish-line medical tent again next year. I was in the BAA medical tent for the 10K on June 23. And yes, my daughter-in-law, Amy, is running in that one as well as the Falmouth road race in August. So no, we have not been broken. We are now and will always be Boston Strong.

—As told to Hannah Lott-Schwartz

Dan Soleau, 36, brand manager at Marathon Sports

Knocked unconscious by the bomb in front of Marathon Sports, Soleau came to, and then helped his coworkers move people inside the store, treating the injured and calming those who took shelter there.

Soleau: I continue to be amazed by the strength, grace and resilience our city has shown after the bombings, and even today. The courage that people displayed was remarkable—everyone sprung into action, doing what they could, contributing in any way possible to help people in need.

It’s been an amazing display of compassion, humanity and hope. Marathon Monday is a day that celebrates tradition, endurance, sportsmanship and human spirit. The people of Boston are the embodiment of all those things that the Marathon celebrates.

It’s astounding that in the second it takes for a bomb to detonate how co-workers, acquaintances and perfect strangers can immediately and irrevocably become your family.

—As told to Hannah Lott-Schwartz

Dr. Natalie Stavas, 32, runner, pediatric resident at Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center

Blocks from finishing the Marathon, Stavas rushed to the site of the second explosion, where she performed CPR and treated three victims.

Stavas: I believe that even now, in the 21st century, Boston continues to command the attention of the nation with its creativity, its intellect, its passion, its heart and its strength. To me Boston is a city that reaches beyond the status quo; it’s a city that wakes up every day and says, “Today I will be stronger. Today I will be better. Today I will triumph.”

I think that the remarkable response of the city is represented in the numbers. 18: The number of minutes it took to triage the severely injured away from the scene. 55: The number of critically ill people whose lives were saved that day. 264: The total number of injured successfully treated. The first responders, the physicians, the nurses, the Boston police and fire departments all mobilized in a way that’s never before been done. There’s no other city that could have accomplished what Boston did that tragic day.

The Boston Athletic Association has generously given my father and me the opportunity to run the 2014 Boston Marathon. We will run it both in honor and remembrance of those who were injured by the bombs.

—As told to Hannah Sheinberg

Megan Tuthill, 42, EMT at Boston Emergency Medical Services

Tuthill provided aid in the larger medical tent, treating one of the first victims brought in, and transported the wounded to the hospital, where she alerted staff to potential incoming injuries before returning to the emergency site with supplies.

Tuthill: My second assignment of the day was to help out in the larger medical tent. After the bombs went off, I was able to assist with helping to put a tourniquet on one of the first victims brought into the tent. My boss then redirected me to an ambulance with a double amputee who needed to get moving to the hospital. I jumped into the driver’s seat and drove. We were able to give the hospital an update on what injuries to expect within the next hour. We quickly cleaned and stocked the ambulance and headed back to the tent where two more critical patients were placed in the back of the ambulance. This time we transported to another hospital. By the time we had returned again, we were shocked to hear no one else needed to be transported.

Emergency Medical Services had been training for mass casualty incidents for years—it’s the people of Boston around us that made it easy. It didn’t matter if you had years of medical training or none at all. The public were willing to take direction and assist in anyway they could. It clearly made a difference.

I am proud of the bravery and the humanity everyone had that day.

I’ll work the Marathon again next year, as I have in the past. It’s such a great day where people work so hard for those with unfortunate circumstances. Most runners train through the difficult Northeast winter, and they do it to raise money and awareness for friends and families who are facing personal circumstances that they have no control over. It’s my way of supporting those who are truly taking time out of their lives for someone else. It’s inspirational. Everyone has a story. Not everyone has someone to run for them. Marathon Monday is a day to celebrate helping others and keeping the spirit alive.

—As told to Hannah Lott-Schwartz

This article originally appeared in the July 3, 2013, issue of The Improper Bostonian.