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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston Students Volunteer at Boston Marathon, Help Victims of the Bombing


During the events that followed the bombings, the 30 students helped doctors, EMTs, and other medical staff on location. 




At 2:45 p.m. on April 15, runners were crossing the finish line of Boston’s famous marathon. By 2:51 p.m., explosions shattered the marathon’s atmosphere of peace and triumph. 183 people were injured, 17 seriously, and three were killed, including former UMass Boston student Krystle Campbell.

25 UMass Boston nursing students and five exercise and health sciences students, part of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CNHS), were volunteering as members of the official Boston Athletic Association (BAA) medical sweep team. Accompanying these students were faculty members Adrienne Wald (EdD, MBA, BSN) and Katie Kafel (MS, RN). The students in the volunteer group were assigned to one of 15 zones near the finish line to assist incoming runners with common conditions, such as hypothermia and muscle cramps.

Instead, the students nearest the finish line found themselves in the middle of what has been widely described as a “war-zone.” Rather than running from the explosion’s epicenter nearby this zone, these students rushed to help other medical professionals and bystanders who were treating the injured.

“They’re all going to be wonderful nurses and health care professionals,” Wald, the CNHS undergraduate nursing program director who initiated the Boston Marathon volunteer experience, said in an interview with the Mass Media. “It was certainly not what they signed up for, but they really rose to the occasion.”

Wald, a long-time runner of the Boston Marathon, displayed her unused marathon bib (#20713), and remarked on how close she came to competing in the 117th marathon. A skiing injury prevented her from running. Unable to run in the Marathon but wanting to “pay it forward,” Wald arranged with the BAA to secure medical sweep volunteer spots so some students eager to get hands-on experience might volunteer. Despite ample training for marathon care, no one was prepared for what happened.

“Nobody knew what was going on—nobody knew if it was over, if there was going to be another bomb. And there were runners [still coming]. It was surreal, just totally surreal,” Wald said.

Wald, a native of New York who relocated to Boston less than a year ago, immediately recalled 9/11. “I’m thinking, ‘The Prudential Center is going to come down next, or the John Hancock Building… it’s over’.”

She said that after the bombs went off, she worried about what catastrophe might happen next. “All I could think about was the students’ safety. I felt so responsible that I planned this… this wonderful day for them and it turned into scene of horror.” Wald added, “The evilness of this bomb… that it was taking people’s legs off at the marathon. That’s so evil. And they planted it at the finish line.”

“Some of my students saw things that none of my students should have to see, that no one should ever have to see. But they did what they were trained to do and helped however they could. No one left their stations. Everyone followed instructions from the BAA.”

During the events that followed the bombings, the 30 students helped doctors, EMTs, and other medical staff on location. Some of the UMass Boston volunteers even went up to the “front line” out of a desire to be more helpful.

In both her Fox 5 interview immediately following the Marathon and her interview with The Mass Media on Wednesday April 17, Wald couldn’t stress enough how proud she was of her team and how relieved she was for their safety. However, she is aware of how devastating the experience could be. “I’m worried about all my students.”

After some time, Wald accompanied her students away from the scene, thinking that they “weren’t going to do anybody any good if we get blown up here.” Uncertain of whether public transportation was open, Wald took the students back to her apartment. There, Wald and her fellow faculty member Kafel debriefed their team, explaining that they were likely to encounter symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The debriefing also gave everyone the opportunity to discuss what had happened.

Wald recalled the atmosphere at her apartment. “We were just trying to stay cool for the students. [But] at that point it wasn’t faculty and students. We were all the same. We were all in horror.”

UMass Boston and the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) began putting together support systems for volunteers following Monday’s bombings. Wald was especially appreciative of the “tremendous support of CNHS Dean Anahid Kulwicki and Associate Dean Marion Winfrey, and the assistance of the division of Student Services, led by Vice Chancellor Patrick Day.”

When asked if the experience at the Marathon might deter her students from becoming nurses, Wald shared an email from Megan Croake, a senior nursing student graduating this semester. In the email, Croake writes, “It is easy to let the horrible event and unbelievable amount of hate from yesterday intimidate us, but I actually read a quote on Facebook from Mr. Rogers (of all people) that really put yesterday into perspective: ‘When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”’ […] I’ve never been prouder to be a future nurse and a ‘helper.’ Instead of letting this event make me weaker or timid toward my career choice, I intend to only let it make me that much stronger.”

Like Croake, the other UMass Boston students who volunteered at the race will not allow the 117th Boston Marathon bombings deter them from going to the 118th Boston Marathon.

The group is also doing fundraising for the victim’s of the Boston Marathon bombing. Those interested in donating should contact Leah Ottenstein, nursing team captain at [email protected] for more information.