Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reflections on the Boston Marathon: Will you react like Carlos Arredondo?


I visited some friends who worked in student affairs in 2010. It was one segment of my 10-city backpacking tour and I was ecstatic to be in a city that I had read so much about. After all, as a history nerd, I revered Boston.

Some BGSU grads/SA friends & I enjoy Little Italy in one of the best cities in the world!

As I prepared for my month-long tour I remember how so many of my friends scoffed when I mentioned Boston. “Great city,” they said, “not so great people”, referring to the stereotype that Bostonians (like many East Coast stereotypes) are rude and jerks.

They were wrong.

This Midwest gal from the “Heartland of America” knows hospitality and Boston had it in droves. Since I mostly traveled alone, I got quite a bit of interaction with some of the folks that lived there – and each of them were incredibly kind. They chatted with me, gave me directions, shared stories…there were anything but a stereotype.

So as the news reports began to fly across my Facebook & Twitter feeds that bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, I couldn’t help but think of those wonderful, amazing people over there and the horror that they were living in at that moment. Deaths, injuries…I feel sick thinking about it.

And then I read The New York Times news article about Jeff Bauman, a young man who was waiting at the finish line to cheer on his girlfriend. Jeff was severely injured and underwent dual amputations of his legs. His ashen face, grim with pain, is an image that will stay with you long after you look away.

But there’s something else to the story. A man in a cowboy hat.

Charles Krupa/Associated Press, from the New York Times article "In Grisly Image, a Father Sees His Son"
The man in the cowboy hat, Carlos Arredondo, 52, had been handing out American flags to runners when the first explosion went off. His son Alexander was a Marine killed in Iraq in 2004, and in the years since he has handed out the flags as a tribute. 

With the first blast, Mr. Arredondo jumped over the fence and ran toward the people lying on the ground. What happened next, he later recounted to a reporter: He found a young man, a spectator, whose shirt was on fire. He beat out the flames with his hands. The young man, who turned out to be Jeff Bauman, had lost the lower portion of both legs. He took off a shirt and tied it around the stump of one leg. He stayed with Mr. Bauman, comforting him, until emergency workers came to help carry him to an ambulance. (Rohan, April 16, 2013, para 16-17)

Just reflect on that for a moment.



A bomb goes off. At least, you think it's a bomb. There was an explosion and fire and a great booming noise that leaves your ears ringing. You don’t know what happened or if there are more, but you see people fall to the ground. You may not even register that you are in lethal danger at the moment, or maybe you don’t even care. You barely take notice of your feet brushing over the pavement as you rush towards the fallen bodies. 

You see a man on fire, his shirt alight. You beat it out with your bare hands; adrenaline courses through you now and you barely notice the pain of the flames. 

The flames are out. You realize in horror that this man has lost the lower portion of both of his legs. There’s blood everywhere. 


Sound travels through your ears with difficulty as your body is still reeling from the shock of the bomb’s booming noise several minutes ago, but you think you hear screams and soft, pained sounds. Yet you react quickly and with purpose. You tug off your shirt and tie it around the stump of one leg. The blood, you think, I have to stop the blood. He can’t bleed out. You begin to see the emergency responders; you know they are coming soon. 

The man next to you is in pain. You stay with him. You comfort him. Your heart is pounding in your chest but you stay with him.

You engage in one of the most raw experiences that human beings can experience, standing at the scene of death and chaos.

And you just saved a life.





The Student Affairs Application
The problem with the 24-hour news networks and social media is that society becomes saturated with facts and events. It is terribly easy to discount what goes on in the world. It’s terribly easy to frown and say “That’s awful” and move on without truly processing what happened.

But we do our fellow brothers and sisters a discredit when we do so – and ourselves.

Reflection is a key component of student affairs, but it is also a key component of life. In this example, I think it is imperative that we consider the events of the Boston Marathon and the first responders, whether they are a professional or just a Good Samaritan. Because, in all honesty, we will never know if it will happen to us. It may. Tragedy appears as an intangible specter, a thing that interrupts the lives of ‘other people’ but never us.

But it may.

And if it does, are you ready?

As the United States sees an increase in acts of violence on college campuses, those of us in student affairs must ask ourselves these difficult questions. What would you do? How would you respond?

We bury our heads in the sand too often. No different from other people, we do not want to think of unpleasant things. But we should. We need to.We must be prepared for crisis.

Yet research tells us that higher education and student affairs professional are often not prepared to deal with crisis ( Hemphill, & LaBanc, 2012). Experience tells me this is true. Last month our cohort met for class at IUPUI the day they experienced "a man with a long gun on campus" - multiple witnesses but no encounters, thankfully. That day we learned that we had no idea what to do regarding procedures and policies. None. That was later remedied thanks to a visit from IU Emergency Management, but still...We are lucky that the day became just a learning experience for us and nothing more.

Saving lives is not just about courage, but also planning and preparation. Quite honestly, crisis intervention can be performed by anyone, even those who may find themselves fearful in a crisis, as long as there is the proper training. When crisis strikes, your mind can revert back to the knowledge it possesses and allow you handle the situation effectively.

So I ask you: 

What can you do to prepare for crisis?
What will you do when/if tragedy strikes?
Will you react like Carlos Arredondo?

...Will you save a life?

Thinking of you all. Best wishes and prayers.

 Hemphill, B. O., & LaBanc, B. H. (Eds.). (2012). Enough is enough: A student affairs perspective on preparedness and response to a campus shooting. Stylus Publishing, LLC..

Rohan, T. (April 16, 2013). In grisly images, a father sees his son. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/17/us/in-grisly-image-a-father-sees-his-son.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0

WishTV. (March 19, 2013). IUPUI gives campus all clear. Retrieved from http://www.wishtv.com/dpp/news/local/marion_county/man-with-gun-seen-on-iupui-campus

Want to learn more about crisis management? IU has a nice website exploring what to do with an active shooter with an accompanying video that is great. It's a good start to engaging on this topic. Also, ask your fellow cohort members, faculty, and staff on how they believe crisis management should occur!

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