It's the kind of thing you can only hope comes out of a terrible situation, a ray of light that makes you think everything might turn out OK.
Victoria McGrath, 20, was panicked and in pain after shrapnel drilled into her legs when the bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday. A man noticed and stopped to comfort her, and his kindness had such an impact on the young woman that officials felt compelled to reach out to him on her behalf.
"His name is Tyler. That's all we know. Tyler," Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick said at a press conference on Tuesday.
"Victoria very, very much wants to thank Tyler personally," Patrick added. "So if Tyler is out there listening or reading your reports, we would love to hear from Tyler so that we can connect him to Victoria."
One of his friends heard that and knew who the governor was talking about. He reached out to his friend Tyler Dodd, who came forward on Wednesday and started talking about why he felt he needed to help.
“I just saw the terror in her eyes. She was obviously in extreme pain. If there was nothing else I could do, I could talk to her,” Dodd told Fox News. “She asked me not to leave her. She was holding my hand. There was some kind of connection on a spiritual level, I would have to say, just when I told it was going to be okay, she believed me. I can't describe how calm she was at that point… her strength helped me through the situation, to help other people. She just seems like an amazing person.”
Esquire magazine writer Fred Milgrim ran into Dodd near Boston's Back Bay subway station, just hours after the blasts on Monday. "I couldn’t help but notice the bloody fingerprints on his shirt," Milgrim wrote on his blog. "He told me a few things about what he had just experienced. That he had been nearby when the explosions went off, and ran immediately towards them. He knew his medical training was in need, so he asked a police officer where to go."
"I had just left the finished line, and I was standing in front of Back Bay Station. I heard the first explosion go off," Dodd told Milgrim. "Most of the people around me didn't know what was going on. I had the gut instinct that it was a malicious explosion. I had a feeling. Then I heard the second one and I knew."
Calling himself "a recovering alcoholic" who had asked God "to let me help somebody in a tangible way," Dodd rushed toward the blast site to see what he could do to help.
"It was pure chaos immediately following. There were people screaming, a lot of people with lower extremity injuries, and a lot of blood," he remembered. "At first there seemed to be a lot of confusion on which patients needed to receive treatment first. There seemed to be a bunch of young nursing students and younger medical personnel that didn't have a lot of experience."
According to news reports, it wasn't Dodd's first brush with an emergency situation. In August 2012, he ended up following a robbery suspect for three blocks and restrained him until the police arrived. He told the New York City MTA police officer that he was a two-time Purple Heart recipient who had done tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, though Esquire's Milgrim said that "my story never mentions he’s a vet. Because he isn’t one. Simple as that." (A search of a database of Purple Heart recipients did not turn up Dodd's name.) In Boston on Monday, a nurse said that Dodd eased McGrath's mind by showing her his scars from "shrapnel," though in New York in August he told police that the wounds on his stomach and wrist were from an AK-47.
Dodd told CNN's Piers Morgan that he knew first aid and "mass casualty" training from working on off-shore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico (he did not mention any military service), and that he had only moved to Boston about a year ago. But wherever he got his hands-on medical experience, it was urgently needed Monday.
"Out of all the people that I was able to console and help, she stuck out in my mind more than anyone else for some reason. We had some kind of unspoken bond," Dodd of Victoria during the CNN interview, conducted remotely from a street corner near Copley Square on Wednesday night. "I got her to look at me, first off. She looked me right in the eyes. And I asked her what her name was."
"I remember trying to be aware of my body language and not to look at her injuries as to make the situation worse for her," said Dodd. "I tried to keep as calm as I could and to keep her as calm. And I drew my strength from her strength."
He says he spent all of Tuesday looking for her but, since he didn't know her last name, didn't get very far. Now that he does, he hopes that he'll have a chance to meet her -- since McGrath, a student at Northeastern University, is still hospitalized, there's no word on when that will happen.
Attempts by Yahoo! Shine to reach Dodd and McGrath were not successful on Thursday. (McGrath's cousin, Catherine McGrath, told the Daily Mail that Victoria has already been through one surgery and was scheduled for another round on Thursday.)
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