Boston Marathon hero Carlos Arredondo – the “man in the cowboy hat” – is heading to Washington, D.C. next week to meet with Pope Francis at the White House, DigBoston has learned.
Arredondo, who famously rescued double amputee Jeff Bauman from the Boylston Street blast scene on April 15, 2013, is also a noted peace activist whose Marine corporal son, Alex, was killed fighting in Iraq in 2004. Carlos’ other son, Brian, committed suicide at age 24 in 2011.
Arredondo, a Costa Rican native who also works on immigration issues, said he’s honored to be representing survivors of the Marathon attacks, as well as veterans and Boston Catholics, when he and his wife, Melida, meet with the pope and President Obama at the White House next Thursday.
“I feel a responsibility to the survivors, my family, my sons, Alex and Brian, and the church here in Roslindale,” Carlos Arredondo said.
The couple attends Sacred Heart Church in Roslindale and will address parishioners after the visit about their meeting with the pope, as well as write a piece for the church newsletter. Melida Arredondo said she and her husband were invited by John Fremont Smith, a local musician who was given tickets to the papal visit after he sent President Obama a link to an emotional video he made about Boston’s resiliency in the wake of the attacks.
Bauman too was invited but is unable to attend. Several other survivors are being invited to meet the pope during his appearance in New York City next Friday, Melida Arredondo said.
The confluence of tragedy in Arredondo’s life has morphed him into a full-time activist who champions a variety of veterans, immigration and suicide prevention efforts. He and his wife recently launched their own charity, the Arredondo Family Foundation, which benefits military families and those impacted by veterans’ suicide. Carlos’ meeting with the pope will be especially emotional, his wife said, since he has sometimes wrestled with his faith.
“He’s had a little more of a struggle maintaining contact with the church, with all of his tragedies,” she said. “But since this new pope has come in, it has helped. Carlos is very excited. It’s a big deal and it’s very moving.”
Arredondo, 55, became a global symbol of heroism in the wake of the bombings after a picture went viral of him in his signature cowboy hat, wheeling a bloody and legless Bauman away from the scene. He and his wife previously met the president during an event for former Attorney General Martha Coakley while Carlos and Bauman were Obama’s guests at the 2014 State of the Union address in Washington.
Melida Arredondo said the couple hopes to deliver Pope Francis a message of hope from the survivors and is hoping others are invited to meet the Holy See in New York.
“We feel like we are representing Boston, and all that happened, including all of the survivors,” she said. “We are in wonder that this is going to happen.”