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These Heroes Showed Compassion In The Aftermath Of The Boston Explosions

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BOSTON HEROES
Conn Jackson, of Atlanta, right, wears a shirt decorated with the flag of the United States as he takes part in an organized moment of silence and a memorial run to show solidarity with victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, Tuesday, April 16, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) | AP

As the investigation of the Boston explosions continues, grim details have continued to emerge -- but so have stories of heroism and compassion, from the first responders who ran toward the blasts to help others to the residents who took in stranded marathoners.

We're collecting these stories -- from small acts of kindness to tremendous displays of valor -- and we'll be updating this page as we hear more of them. If you have something to share, we want to hear from you. Send us your stories, photos, videos, and anything else you want to share here. Include a phone number if you'd like to be interviewed. Let us know if you want to remain anonymous.

If you want to find out what you can do to help, click here.

Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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@ projectmailbox : Want to offer your thanks/support for Marathon victims?Write a letter and drop it in our mailbox at 771 Comm Ave, we'll mail them #mailathon

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HuffPost's Tyler Kingkade reports:

Two days after the bombings, the mood on campus is somber, [Boston College sophomore Corey] Leonardi said, but there's something that is helping: the outpouring of support from students around the Boston area, and indeed, around the country.

"Seeing people off campus support Boston is really comforting to all of us at BC," Leonardi said. "Knowing that we have the whole country behind us is such a great feeling and really allows you to feel the unity in the United States of America. At a college with students from all 50 states, you could really see the personal concerns coming from all across the country."

Read the rest here.

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HuffPost's Dominique Mosbergen writes:

One of the heartwarming stories making headlines this week is that of Dr. Peter Fagenholz, a Massachusetts General Hospital trauma surgeon who tirelessly performed surgeries on blast victims through the night on Monday.

“This is work,” he told reporters earlier this week, explaining how he was coping with the stress, as well as the volume of critically injured patients. “When this happens, we just go to work.”

Read more about Fagenholz and other medical professionals who've been praised for their efforts to help in Boston here.

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Earlier, runner Laura Wellington told outlets including HuffPost that a man had given her his marathon medal while she sat crying after the explosion:

The man then asked me if I finished, to which I nodded "no." He then proceeded to take the medal off from around his neck and placed it around mine. He told me, "You are a finisher in my eyes." I was barely able to choke out a "thank you" between my tears. Odds are I will never see this couple again, but I'm reaching out with the slim chance that I will be able to express to them just what this gesture meant to me."

Now, The Toronto Star has identified that man as 46-year-old Brent Cunningham, of Sitka, Alaska.

Cunningham gave an interview to an Alaskan radio station, in which he downplayed the act.

"Many of them were at mile 25, 26 when all of a sudden they couldn't run anymore because of what had happened," he told KCAW. "We were with a gal who was crying. She didn't finish the race, and I just feel so much compassion. I'm embarrassed to tell you this, I mean, I don't want any attention for it, but I just gave her my medal, my race medal. Because I finished and got my medal, and she didn't finish, and she deserved a medal. And so, I just gave her my medal, because, I had to. It was like, I cannot not give it to you, you deserve it. And she just started bawling."

Read the rest of the story here.

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The Boston Globe's Kay Lazar reports:

One of the 19 patients admitted to Tufts Medical Center after the double bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon Monday is looking for the man who helped her, hospital spokeswoman Brooke Tyson Hynes said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. The woman “believes he did indeed save her life,” Hynes said.

The unidentified patient, who suffered severe injuries to her leg, remembers the man telling her his name was Sergeant Tyler and that he is a former Marine. She remembers seeing a scar on his left arm.

“He told her, ‘You’re going to have a scar, but you’re going to be OK. It’ll be like my scar,’ ” Hynes said.

Read the rest here.

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A woman recalls the view from her hotel room above Copley Square:

To me, the image that sticks out is the yellow jackets.

When I first got to the room and ran to the window, the scene below was still immediate chaos. Runners were literally sprinting through and around the finish area. It was an absolutely frantic scene, clouded over by bomb smoke and punctuated by sirens. But the yellow jackets - they stayed. They didn't run. They tore up the finish line as quickly as they could. They carried runners in their arms and acted as human crutches. I saw runners collapse into their arms and they stood still and held them. They tore down fencing and scaffolding to open the area up to allow people to move more quickly. They were on the ground over broken and injured bodies. They ran back and forth from the medical tent, bringing bags of ice and supplies, pushing empty and full wheelchairs, doing whatever it was that needed to be done.

They too had families to call. They too were in a dangerous and unsecured crime scene. And when they heard the third blast, they STILL stayed.

For me, the enduring image of the Boston Marathon will forever be of the very first responders: the Boston Marathon volunteers, the yellow jackets who stared fear and evil in the eye and vowed that no matter what, they would not run.

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Michelle Day was running her third Boston Marathon, and her first uninjured. After making it to Heartbreak Hill, she stopped in the medical tent to treat her cramping legs and dehydration. Then, determined to finish, she pressed on.

Day writes:

They helped me the best they could, and I said, "I have to go. I have to finish. I want my medal. I have to do it."

They wrapped me in a Mylar blanket and I was on my way limping. I immediately fell in step with two other injured runners. They said, "We're walking it in...Walk with us. Join us," so I did. My tears turned to smiles as the crowd cheered me on. "Go City Sports!" they shouted, because I was wearing a City Sports t-shirt. "You can do it! Stay strong! You're so close."

She was less than half a mile away from the finish line when she heard the booms, followed by sirens. Police told her that the race was over, that she needed to leave the area.

I started walking. I don't know where. Finally I saw a lady entering her apartment. I said, "I don't know where to go. I'm cold. Can I just sit inside your doorway?"

She invited me in. "Come inside," she said. I insisted on sitting on her stairs. She hugged me and treated me like I was her own child. I couldn't climb the stairs so she ran up and down bringing me a drink. A sweatshirt. A blanket. Her phone to make phone calls. Offered me money for a cab or a train.

"Why are you doing this?" I asked.

"Because that's what I do! That's what you're supposed to do when something like this happens! What do you need!? Do you want some tea?"

She was the sweetest, nicest, kindest person I've ever met. I would have frozen if not for her. I would have cried and been lost if not for her. I went back outside and started walking. She had gone upstairs and I never had a chance to thank her.

If I hadn't stopped at that medical tent I would have finished. But who knows what would have happened.

Today, I Googled her and emailed her. She said yes, it was her. I thanked her, said I'd never forget her kindness, and asked how I could return her things to her. She said, just stay strong and keep running, and that's thanks enough for her. She was just glad I emailed her and that I was OK.

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@ TwitterGood : We've provided the City of Boston the Promoted Trend today free of charge through Twitter Ads for Good. Learn more: http://t.co/FwQ1uKtuko

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MNN's Melissa Breyer reports:

Social media did what it does best, spreading the word quickly and connecting those in need with those who could help. Hashtag twitters like #Bostonhelp and #westandtogethe started pinging through the twittersphere. Restaurants became makeshift lounges, offering comfort and free food.

And volunteers across the city opened their doors to dazed strangers – runners, families, spectators – who were stranded when the city was essentially shut down.

...In cities near and far, messages of love and encouragement are being conveyed in support of Boston and all who have been touched by the tragedy. On the exterior face of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the artist known as The Illuminator projected a series of poignant messages (see video below), reminding us all that, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.”

Read more here.

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Stephen Fiola was at the Boston Marathon leading a group of military members in the Tough Ruck, running the course with their packs to commemorate fallen colleagues.

His friend Eliza Delgado writes:

If you've watched CNN, you've seen the loop of footage being shown frequently which includes several seconds of footage in which two soldiers are pulling down the barricades by the finish line to get to the injured around the location of the first bomb.

The soldiers in those frames are my friend Stephen and one of his comrades in the Army National Guard.

Stephen and these guys ran the entire length of the course doing a tough ruck for charity- wearing their full ruck gear to raise money for families of deceased servicemembers.

It is people like this who deserve honor- those who go above and beyond in times of tragedy to help those in need. Steve and his fellow soldiers didn't rest for one second after finishing- they simply took of their gear and ran toward the blast areas.

These are champions.

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An employee at a jewelry store drapes a flag over the storefront as a show of support.

Sean Gallagher was on Clarendon Street, two blocks from the explosions. He writes:

The video that the news is repeatedly showing of the blast depicts a wide array of reactions. Some flee, some stand bewildered, and some run to the scene of the crime. If there is any manifestation of bravery and what it looks like in action – it is of citizens and first responders running directly to the site of a bombing to help people....America truly does shine on days like today. I witnessed cops and fireman rush to the scene without a thought in their head about their own safety. The National Guard leapt into action to establish security. What a remarkable example of the selfless spirit of America that the act of one or even multiple self crazed, hopelessly infantile lunatics can never stamp out the shining resiliency of our people.

The cops did an amazing job of barricading the area of the blast and rushing us away. I saw a few injured folks, but the first responders had already taken care of most of them. The national guard was already on site, but the speed with which they set up a permitter and ushered civilians away was incredible. Within minutes SWAT cars, undercover cars, firetrucks - everything, they all came racing down the street.

I will remember a great deal about this day. Just like 9/11, I will remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I will remember my feelings, my reaction, my surroundings, my disbelief. I will recall how my world, particularly my perception of it, was shattered. What I will remember most though is awe. Awe of the fragility of life, of the cruelty of humans, but mostly of our ability to overcome this cruelty – to conquer it with selflessness and love.

Bombings like the one today will change us, as they should. But there are certain things that these bombings cannot change. Knowing this will carry me through this time, as I believe it carries us through all dark times.

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HuffPost reader Jenn Pipe writes:

One of the first people who came to my mind when I heard about the blasts yesterday was a man who people call "Doc." He was my first boss when I was an athletic trainer and he has, for countless years, been one of the head medical personnel at the Boston Athletic Association’s medical tent. He looks forward to this every year, no doubt buoyed by the indomitable spirit of the runners and their stories.

I tried to get a hold of him yesterday to make sure he was okay. I couldn't get through and I didn't hear back. Honestly, I feared the worst. But then his wife posted on his Facebook account late last night, saying he was still there -- shaken, but tending to the injured and giving everything he possibly could. This is an event where a sports medical professional primarily tends to blisters, dehydration, sprains, strains, and the occasional collapse and change in vitals from hyperthermia. Severed limbs, shrapnel wounds, and non-runner-related casualties are not part of the landscape. Doc went above and beyond the call of duty (and his training) yesterday to tend to the wounded. It makes me proud to once have shared the same credentials as him.

As you watch the footage from yesterday, you watch so many people running towards the blast to help, not running away from it in fear. That is really so indicative of the soul of the people in Boston. We can be abrasive and rude, but by and large we are harmless and will give you the shirt right off our backs. Many marathoners, despite being exhausted and completely depleted, kept right on running -- past the finish line and on to Mass General Hospital to donate blood. People have offered up their homes, meals, a safe place to rest.

Yoga studios close to me are offering free yoga classes for people who just need to regroup and recharge. Art studios are offering free classes for kids. MIT lit up a building in red, white and blue lights that mimicked the American flag. And, just like in the days following 9/11, people are a little kinder and gentler with each other.

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Laura Wellington, who ran in the marathon, writes:

I was 1/2 mile from the finish line when the explosion went off. I had no idea what was going on until I finally stopped and asked someone. Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them. Diverted away from the finish line, I started walking down Mass Ave towards Symphony Hall still not knowing where my family was. Right before the intersection of Huntington, I was able to get in touch with Bryan and found out he was with my family and they were safe. I was just so happy to hear his voice that I sat down and started crying. Just couldn't hold it back. At that moment, a couple walking by stopped. The woman took the space tent off her husband, who had finished the marathon, and wrapped it around me. She asked me if I was okay, if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be ok. The man then asked me if I finished, to which I nodded "no." He then proceeded to take the medal off from around his neck and placed it around mine. He told me, "You are a finisher in my eyes." I was barely able to choke out a "thank you" between my tears.

Odds are I will never see this couple again, but I'm reaching out with the slim chance that I will be able to express to them just what this gesture meant to me. I was so in need of a familiar face at that point in time. This couple reassured me that even though such a terrible thing had happened, everything was going to be ok.

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@ RedCross : Thanks to generosity of volunteer blood donors there is currently enough blood on the shelves to meet demand. #BostonMarathon

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A HuffPost reader from Boston tells us:

“I and probably many others did manage to find solace in seeing all the instances of people coming together: groups of friends hugging and consoling one another, locals stopping for out-of-towners to offer directions or any other assistance, even pedestrians signaling for cars to pull over for emergency vehicles. As a Bostonian and American, today was most definitely draining, confusing, and upsetting, and the only thing we can continue to do is keep coming together and thinking of one another, especially those who died, were injured, or whose loved ones were affected.”

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@ mfaboston : The MFA will be free today. We hope the Museum will be a place of respite for our community.

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Dozens of residents have offered their homes to runners stranded in Boston.

Joshua Dawson, a Democratic candidate for state representative in Massachusetts, took in three students, HuffPost's Christina Wilkie reports.

"Boston is on lockdown, but everyone's just being good neighbors and welcoming people into their homes," Dawson said.

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