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Look for the Helpers: 10 Heroes of the Boston Marathon Tragedy

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"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'" —Mister Rogers

In the midst of the carnage following the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday, people came together to do what they could, even when it put them in danger. Some were doing their jobs, some had specific skills to volunteer, and others just offered what they could to help out. Here are some examples of the good to take the edge off the horrifyingly bad.

1. First Responders

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Boston EMTs were already stationed at the marathon to treat the expected injuries and exhaustion-related maladies that come with any marathon run. Boston police were there for crowd control. Dozen of doctors and nurses volunteered to work medical tents at the marathon. None of them expected to shift into emergency mode, but when the explosions happened, they rose to occasion.  

2. Marathon Runners

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When the bombs exploded, only about half the marathon runners had crossed the finish line. Many of those who were near the explosion ran to help the victims, despite their exhaustion after running 26 miles. As word of the disaster spread along the marathon route, some runners crossed the finish line and then continued running to Mass General Hospital to donate blood. Because of their efforts, and that of other immediate donors, the Red Cross has issued a statement that it has plenty of blood for the patients in Boston right now, and offers a website to help people find friends and family members affected by the tragedy.

3. Boston Residents

People living in Boston, Brookline, and other nearby areas quickly opened their doors with offers to let stranded marathoners and spectators stay at their homes. Specific offers were posted on Twitter and Google Docs to help house family members of the injured and others who weren't able to return home or to their hotels.

4. UMass Nursing Students

Photo by Flickr user Mark Zastrow

Dr. Adrienna Wald brought 30 of her nursing students from UMass Boston to the marathon as volunteers, expecting to treat exhausted runners. In addition to treating marathoners, the students immediately pitched in to help those with serious wounds.

"They did what they were trained to do," said Wald. "Instead of running away, they ran to help."

She said her students assisted at least one person whose leg had been amputated.

"It was a gory, gruesome scene that my students shouldn't have seen at this point in their careers," said Wald. "Who could ever be prepared for this?"

5. Allan Panter

Screenshot from The Today Show

Dr. Allan Panter traveled from his home in Georgia to Boston to watch his wife Theresa run the marathon. He was waiting at the finish line when the blast occurred. He ran to a seriously injured woman and went to work keeping her airway open until she could be taken to a medical tent. He then worked on many people with injuries, mostly leg injuries, to control bleeding. When Theresa crossed the finish line, she was relieved to find her husband helping instead of finding him a victim.

6. Joe Andruzzi

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Former New England Patriots lineman Joe Andruzzi was at the scene of the explosions, as his charitable foundation sponsored runners. In the aftermath of the explosions, he was seen carrying an injured woman away from the site. Andruzzi came by that can-do attitude naturally: Three of his brothers were New York City firemen who responded to the 9/11 attacks.   

7. Carlos Arredondo

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"The man in the cowboy hat" stood out in photographs and videos of the explosions' aftermath, as he pulled debris off people and helped a young man who appeared to have lost both legs. That man in the hat was Carlos Arredondo, a 52-year-old peace activist who was at the marathon to cheer on a runner who was dedicating his race to Arredondo's son, a Marine who died in Iraq in 2004.

8. Anonymous Volunteers

While the police were very busy, these anonymous volunteers stepped up to help direct traffic around the affected area. They are representative of the many other anonymous people who helped out in whatever way they could.   

9. Google

Upon hearing the news of the Boston incident, Google immediately set up a Person Finder application in order to help friends and relatives get updates on not only Boston residents, but marathon runners from all over. You can also contribute information on people if you have it.   

10. Mister Rogers

In the aftermath of the explosions, many people around the United States thought back to their childhoods, and the advice they received from Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."

The man who had so much influence on a generation of children reached beyond the grave to help us cope and to inspire an attitude so many have in the days after a tragedy like the Boston bombing.

Britain Is in the Midst of a Rare ‘Wind Drought’

Generating renewable energy in Britain is a little less than a breeze these days: A “wind drought” is halting the country’s wind turbines.

This month’s wind energy output is down 40 percent from the same time last year, New Scientist reports. On average, about 15 percent of Britain’s electricity comes from wind power. Data starting from July 1 of this year put the monthly average closer to 6.9 percent. Last month, turbines were producing less than 2 percent of Britain’s electricity—the lowest output in two years.

That’s with even more wind turbines being installed over the course of the past year, New Scientist says. The data aren’t entirely surprising, though. The jet stream tends to make the UK’s weather drier and calmer during the summer and wetter and stormier during the winter. But the high pressure the jet stream has brought with it this year has been unusually prolonged, scientists say.

“It’s like a lid, it keeps everything still,” UK Met Office spokesperson Grahame Madge told New Scientist. “From the forecast looking out over the next couple of weeks, there doesn’t seem to be any significant change on the way.”

The wind drought shouldn’t cause too many problems in the short term. Electricity demand is low during the summer (very few British homes have air conditioning), and the country’s been able to compensate for the lack of wind by burning more natural gas. If the wind drought continues to persist, though, UK residents may begin to see an increase in utility fees. Natural gas prices have already risen with the increased demand.

“As we continue to transition to a low-carbon energy system, managing the intermittency of renewable power an important role in balancing supply and demand,” a National Grid spokesperson told New Scientist. “However, we have planned for these changes and [are] ready to play our part.”

The wind drought comes about eight years after British politicians vowed to reduce the UK's dependence on fossil fuels. Last year was the first year that electricity generated from low-carbon energy sources like solar power, wind power, and nuclear power outpaced high-carbon energy sources like coal and natural gas. This summer’s wind drought may make it difficult to improve on last year’s numbers.

[h/t New Scientist]

Peanuts Are Making Their Final Departure From Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines—the commercial flying juggernaut that made peanuts an airplane staple 47 years ago—is now doing away with them for good. Starting August 1, the airline will no longer offer peanuts on any of its flights.

According to the company, it’s all about concern for people with allergies, ABC News reports. “Our ultimate goal is to create an environment where all customers—including those with peanut-related allergies—feel safe and welcome on every Southwest flight,” the airline said in a statement.

Southwest Airlines started offering free peanuts on all its flights in 1971. The practice, which later became synonymous with airplane travel, originally began as a cheeky marketing ploy. In an effort to lower prices, the airline stopped serving in-flight meals and told customers they could fly for peanuts, both literally and figuratively.

But the ubiquity of peanuts on airplanes soon became a concern for individuals with severe food allergies. Proponents of airplane peanut bans say severely allergic individuals can experience reactions from airborne peanut dust alone, but organizations like the American Peanut Council are predictably more skeptical. There’s not enough evidence that someone can experience severe allergic reactions from inhaling peanut dust, they say, so the claim may be a myth.

Fact is, there’s not a whole lot of concrete information on either side. In a 2008 article published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, researchers surveyed 471 people with a medical history of food allergies. Of that number, 41 said they’d experienced allergic reactions to food on commercial airline flights (mostly to peanuts), and 26 said those reactions had come from inhaled peanut dust. An unspecified number said their reactions had been life-threatening. But the study’s authors admitted within the article their methods had limitations—researchers recruited participants through newspaper advertisements, for one, and the data were all self-reported.

The lack of decisive evidence that airplane peanuts cause severe allergic reactions is one reason why airlines have historically been reluctant to make changes. In 2010, the Department of Transportation contemplated banning peanuts on planes, but it abandoned the idea after being reminded of a 2000 law that prohibits the department from enforcing any peanut bans without the support of a conclusive, peer-reviewed study showing severe reactions resulting from "contact with very small airborne peanut particles of the kind that passengers might encounter in an aircraft."

Further complicating the issue is the fact that severe allergies are considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA doesn’t regulate air travel discrimination, though, which is why the Air Carrier Access Act, or ACAA, was passed in 1986. The ACAA defines a disability as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Severe allergies fall under that (not being able to breathe or eat is a pretty significant impairment), but the ACAA doesn’t specify how airlines should treat customers with food allergies.

Most airlines have specific measures they’ll take in order to accommodate customers with peanut allergies, but such procedures are uneven across airlines, and can sometimes be uneven across flights of the same airline. JetBlue, for example, serves only peanut-free snacks and will make announcements about food allergies. Air Canada recently phased out nuts from all its in-flight food options, and it also offers to create a buffer zone between individuals with allergies and any allergens. Prior to banning peanuts, Southwest allowed people with allergies to pre-board in order to wipe down their seats, but it didn’t make any announcements discouraging passengers from eating peanuts.

Given the airline’s story, peanuts “forever will be part of Southwest's history and DNA,” the company said in a statement. But Southwest isn’t going to stop offering free food to customers who shell out the money for a flight. Passengers in the future can instead look forward to in-flight snacks of pretzels, cookies, veggie chips, and corn chips, CNN reports.

[h/t ABC News]


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