By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Bernard Madore was in the wrong place, but at definitely the right time.
After the Derry soldier walked 26.2 miles with the Tough Ruck 2013 Boston Marathon team, he became one of many first responders helping the injured following the bombings April 15.
Madore, 44, is a first sergeant with the Massachusetts National Guard 1060th Transportation Company and had just completed the Tough Ruck team marathon event. Soldiers marched the route carrying 40-pound packs to honor and remember their fallen comrades.
The day started very early for the 15-member active duty soldiers, dressed in full military fatigues and carrying their “ruck” packs filled with extra items like uniforms, socks, snacks, first aid kits and other gear. Money raised from the marathon walk supports the nonprofit Military Friends Foundation.
“We started walking within groups of two or three,” Madore recalled. “It was great. Everyone was out there cheering.”
Madore, a 26-year veteran, said the soldiers completed their walk and were gathering at the medical tent near the finish line when the first bomb exploded.
“We then heard this loud boom,” he said. “We saw smoke, then three of us just took off, we just took off into the blast.”
The second blast came quickly.
“We kept going in,” Madore said, “yelling at the people in the grandstand to get away.”
Madore’s training served him well. He served two tours of duty in Iraq and knew the drill.
He and his comrades started tearing down a metal fence to gain access to those most seriously injured.
“We were screaming at civilians to get out of the way,” Madore said. “We saw baby blankets on the ground, an elderly man was on the ground, triage spots were set up everywhere.”
Madore said he saw the most horrible images — lost limbs, burns, blood everywhere. He took a piece of a woman’s purse strap to use as a tourniquet. It was elbow to elbow, he said, people doing whatever they could to help, a testament to the good will and strength that happens during a tragic event.
The scene hit home hard.
“It was mayhem,” Madore said. “I’ve been to Iraq a couple of times, and up and down the road. You expect it there. But I couldn’t believe the devastation here.”
The Somerville, Mass., native said he had walked that area of Boylston Street many times as a child, had taken his own children there and enjoyed the neighborhood.
“You just never expect that to happen,” Madore said.
Once the victims were transported to hospitals, the soldiers remained to help clean up and keep the area secure.
Madore’s response came as no surprise to his sister Debbie Wallace of Derry.
“It never shocked us for a minute that he would do this,” she said.
Madore was among those honored Sunday during the Boston Bruins’ “Shirt Off Their Back” ceremony. Emergency workers and first responders were celebrated for their efforts.
Wallace said her brother never asked to be in the limelight, but acted quickly as he is trained to do to help others.
“He’s a very humble person,” she said.