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One photo tells the story of a family and an unknown hero

BOSTON — When Jeff Bauman woke up in a hospital bed on Tuesday, an air tube was down his throat, both of his legs had been amputated at the knee, and his father was by his side. He tried to talk, but he could not.

He looked angry, as he motioned his arms up and out like shock waves and mouthed: "Boom! Boom!"

Jeff Bauman is the man in the photograph who has become an icon of the Boston Marathon attack. If the world could not identify him immediately, Bauman's father — also named Jeff Bauman — certainly could.

That was his son with his legs destroyed, wearing a favorite shirt. That was his son.

When the explosions went off at the Boston Marathon, Jeff Bauman, 52, called his son's cellphone again and again — no answer. He knew his son was there, to cheer for his girlfriend, Erin Hurley, who was running her first Boston Marathon. For an hour, he kept calling, calling. No answer.

Then his stepdaughter, Erika, called him. "Did you see the picture?" she asked. "Jeffrey's on the news. He got hurt."

"Are you sure? Are you sure?" He was shouting now.

"Yes! Yes! I'm sure!" she shouted back.

Bauman found the picture on Facebook. It was not the whole picture, the one that showed Jeff's left leg blown off at the calf. He started calling Boston-area hospitals and found his son registered at Boston Medical Center. He and his wife, Csilla, drove from their home in Concord, N.H., and reached Jeff's side just before 8 p.m.

The surgery was already done. Both Jeff's legs had been amputated at the knee.

The Baumans know how lucky Jeff was. "The man in the cowboy hat — he saved Jeff's life," Csilla Bauman said. His father's eyes widened: "There's a video where he goes right to Jeff, picks him right up and puts him on the wheelchair and starts putting the tourniquet on him and pushing him out. I got to talk to this guy!"

The man in the cowboy hat, Carlos Arredondo, 53, 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 years since he has handed out the flags as a tribute.

With the first blast, 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 Bauman, comforting him, until emergency workers came.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Baumans wondered what had become of the man in the cowboy hat. They wanted to tell him that their son was alive.

But he might be in the hospital for two more weeks. What would he do when he was not so sedated? They plan to bring him his guitar. What would they say to him when he came to?

The elder Bauman covered his mouth with his hand as he started to cry. "I just don't know," he said.

One photo tells the story of a family and an unknown hero 04/16/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 11:15pm]
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