Opinion: Finding the good in times of tragedy

By Megan Badger

Wire Managing Editor

It’s one of those moments you’ll never forget.

September 11. The Newtown massacre. The Boston Marathon bombings. These events stay with us for an entire lifetime.

When our country was rocked once again by violence during last week’s Boston Marathon, I was faced with feelings of sadness, fear and sympathy.

While this tragedy didn’t occur in our backyard, nearly everyone I’ve spoken to knew someone who ran the marathon or who was in the city of Boston during the attack. Local runners from Bucks and Montgomery counties participated in the race, including members of the Bucks County Roadrunners who, thankfully, survived the attack without injury.

Headlines across the globe told heartbreaking stories of three untimely deaths and countless gruesome injuries that resulted from two bombs set off during a beloved national event.

Yet, among the heartbreak, there were many stories of bravery, heroism and hope. Nurses, doctors, policemen, EMTs, volunteers and even bystanders proved once again that people are resilient and compassionate when faced with extraordinary circumstances.

The story of Boston resident Carlos Arredondo — better known now as the Cowboy Hat Hero — is one that is etched in my mind. When the bombs went off, Arrendondo jumped a fence and ran into the chaos, aiding numerous people who had been knocked unconscious and many who had lost their limbs. A widely circulated photo by the Associated Press shows him running beside an injured man as he’s pushed in a wheelchair, pinching what appears to be an artery in the man’s leg.

One story was circulated via Facebook by a female runner looking to find a man who generously gifted his marathon medal to her after discovering she didn’t finish the race. Laura Wellington had trouble reaching her family members who were waiting at the finish line, and had just gotten in touch with them when she sat on the curb and started sobbing. Brent Cunningham of Alaska saw his fellow race participant sitting on the curb in tears after the bombings, so he and his wife put a blanket around her and consoled her.

Cunningham asked if she had finished the race, and when she replied “No,” he gave Wellington the medal and said, “You’re a finisher in my eyes.” Her post received more than a quarter million “likes” on Facebook within days and eventually reunited the two via telephone.

Those are only two of many inspiring stories that came out of Boston that day.

The Red Cross and even Google sprung into action quickly following the bombings, offering runners and family members a means of finding each other through an online forum.

I heard accounts of hotels, restaurants and generous Bostonians who opened their doors to stranded runners and families who were without transportation or a place to stay.

Within 24 hours of the event, a charity was created for those affected called The One Fund. Only days later, The Boston Globe reported that more than 8,500 individuals rallied to raise $7.5 million on onefundboston.org.

From the first responders who saved lives following the attack, to the students at Emerson College who sold T-shirts to raise money for the victims, people proved the good of humankind in the wake of this tragedy.