updated 05/02/2013 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 05/02/2013 AT 11:30 AM ET
They met under the most dire circumstances – one man desperately in need of the other. But Jeff Bauman and Carlos Arredondo have ended up helping each other in ways neither could have imagined.
The pair were immortalized in the most famous photo from the Boston Marathon bombings. Arredondo, 52, in a cowboy hat, is seen rushing Bauman, 27, to medical care after one of the bombs shattered both of Bauman’s legs below the knee.
In the weeks since that awful afternoon, the men have bonded. And in some ways, it is Bauman who is helping Arredondo to heal – from years of mental health problems.
“It’s constantly in my head, seeing the people,” Arredondo tells the Wall Street Journal. “I’m at the spot of the event, seeing the young man I helped, and the young lady who died … It’s hard to sleep.”
Arredondo is no stranger to tragedy, or mental health struggles. His elder son was killed in Iraq in 2004. Arredondo attempted suicide shortly thereafter. Then, in 2011, his other son hanged himself after a battle with depression.
Now, Arredondo is urging those who were at the bombings to seek psychological counseling early, before problems arise. (“It could be months from now when you can have difficult days,” he says.) And he is finding personal solace in his friendship with Bauman, whom he has visited several times at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston.
“It’s nice to have a friend, someone that age,” he says. “I don’t think this bond is going to end after the cameras go away.”
As for Bauman, he “had a big smile, like it was one of his kids” when he first saw Arredondo again after the bombings, Arredondo’s wife says. They have taken several photos together and find comfort in each other’s company.
Bauman is celebrated as a hero himself on a special Facebook page set up by his family to let people know about his recovery. In a recent radio interview, he showed his incredible spirit by suggesting he was the lucky one.
Referring to bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Bauman said: “He’s dead, and I’m still here.”