Bill Greene/Globe Staff
Former Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi has been called a hero by many after a widely circulated Globe photo showed him carrying an injured woman away from the site of Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon.
But the 37-year-old with three brothers who were first responders as New York City firefighters in the Sept. 11 attacks quickly dismissed that emotional response.
“I am definitely not a hero,” Andruzzi said Tuesday in his first interview after the bombings. “I am just a bystander, and that led to my help. Many heroes that I look upon are people like my three brothers that are running into burning buildings when others are running out. Explosions are going off and they are driving their cars down Boylston (Street) right into the heart of the scene. They are the people that don’t care about their safety and are worried for other people’s safety and survival.”
Monday started out as a banner day for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which raises funds to help families dealing with cancer. There were 21 runners in the race, who had raised $163,000 to that point. Friends (including former Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham), sponsors from East Commerce Solutions, Michelob Ultra and RadioBDC, were enjoying a fundraising watch party just a few blocks from the finish line, 755 Boylston St., at Forum restaurant.
“Everybody was having fun; we were having a grand old time,” said Andruzzi, himself a cancer survivor. “We had some patients there that were a part of the foundation, one of our patients’ dad was running and their siblings and mom were having fun. We had a lot of people, from upstairs to downstairs and all over the place. It was starting out to be a great day, great event and unfortunately it did not end up that way.”
Shortly after 3 p.m., the second of the two bombs detonated in front of the Forum restaurant. Amazingly, those affiliated with JAF only sustained minor injuries.
“A few went to the hospital with concussions and lacerations and things like that, but nothing severe,” Andruzzi said. “We were very lucky.”
Andruzzi had been behind the finish line with his wife, Jen, and a photographer from JAF when the first bomb went off. He didn’t find out until much later, after assisting the relief efforts, that the second bomb detonated in front of Forum.
“The employees said it was a crime scene and we couldn’t go in because the explosion happened right in front,” Andruzzi said. “My heart just dropped. Many things were going through my mind. I was sick to my stomach.
“But during this whole tragedy, I was amazed by all of the emergency workers there and how they sprung into action, it was truly amazing. It was a medical tent that turned into a triage center and from the yellow jackets to the white jackets to the police, firemen, EMTs, when I tell you that it was split seconds, I could not believe how fast they sprung into action. A lot of them are trained for that. But even the others who aren’t trained, civilians sitting on the side that sprung into action, it was truly amazing. It’s one of those sights that you’ll probably never forget. To be able to turn around and know that there are many people out there that are looking to help and want to help, when you get into those moments, you don’t think, you just do. That’s what I did and that’s what many other people did.”
Andruzzi said many restaurant workers, especially those at Forum, were instrumental in keeping people calm in a chaotic situation, and assisted many directly with medical attention.
Chatham and Andruzzi were part of a group that carried an injured woman from Forum through the back alley and to medical attention.
It was prior to this that Andruzzi carried the injured woman in the photograph. He doesn’t know her name, just that she was from Virginia and was with her three daughters and likely waiting for her husband to finish the race.
“I turned and saw three young women carrying somebody on their back,” he said. “I ran over and that’s the picture you saw. I told them, ‘Let me help.’ Scooped her up and I remember them yelling at the cameraman, ‘Stop taking pictures of my mom.’ I know we were down by Newbury and walked her down the block and to an ambulance.”
Andruzzi also made a point to salute the runners.
“To all the runners out there, they all finished their marathon, whether they crossed that finish line or not,” he said. “A lot of them trained months for this, and I wanted to congratulate them for their hard work and dedication. Many are charity runners, like my 21 runners, who help pay things forward. Some even gave blood after crossing the finish line – just amazing stuff. Their hard work and dedication should not be forgotten. They all deserve a medal and completed that marathon, whether they crossed that line or not. “