The explosion of two bombs at the Boston marathon turned a pristine Patriot's Day into pandemonium.
Three people were killed and more than 170 were injured in the terrorist attack. But in the face of what President Obama deemed "a heinous and cowardly act," acts of kindness both large and small shone through. A gifted medal, Herculean strength and a mother's love all showed that goodness is invincible.
|Marathon Medal Goes Viral|
Laura Wellington, 25, was a half mile from the finish line of the Boston marathon when the first bomb went off. She didn't know what was going on until she stopped to ask someone.
"Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them," Wellington wrote on her Facebook page.
She was diverted from the finish line, but was able to get in touch with a friend who was with her family. 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," she wrote. "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 O.K., if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be O.K."
"The man then asked me if I finished, to which I nodded, 'no,'" she wrote. "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."
Wellington posted a photo of the medal on Facebook along with her story and it has been shared more than 210,000 times on Facebook with hundreds of comments from people touched by the act of kindness.
"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," Wellington wrote. "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 O.K."
|Brain 'Switch' Turns Marathon Participant to First Responder|
When First Lt. Steve Fiola crossed the Boston marathon finish line, he was already thinking about how he was going to spend Tuesday resting after completing both the marathon and his taxes on Monday.
He had participated as a team leader for Tough Ruck 2013, a group of military members who walked the marathon course with full rucksacks that weighed an average of 35 pounds and in full military uniforms. They were raising money and awareness for the Military Friends Foundation -- a Massachusetts non-profit serving military families and families of the fallen.
"The day was absolutely perfect. It was a pristine day. We're not in any sort of tactical mindset. We're in this ... this is a beautiful day with 500,000 people, all these amazing athletes," Fiola told ABCNews.com. "Things really worked in our favor until 2:50 that afternoon."
"That's the part that's so surreal," he said. "It was like two different days. The second half of the day was the complete antithesis to the first."
After crossing the finish line, Fiola's team members were gathered at their pre-determined rally point. He and his soldiers were having a final conversation at their meeting point to make sure everyone was accounted for and was feeling fine. Some of the soldiers had already left on shuttles to pick up their cars.
"Then, right at 2:50, that first explosion went off and we were only about 150 feet from it," he said. "I had my left shoulder to it so I could see from my peripheral."
"It takes about a fraction of a second for that switch to turn on and for you to be in that mindset where it's, 'Go. We need to take care of this,'" Fiola said. "It went off and knowing where it went off and the amount of people here, we knew it was not going to be good."
As the highest ranked soldier there, all of the others looked to Fiola for guidance. He told most of his soldiers to stay where they were and took two with him as they ran straight into the chaos.
"People were falling on top of each other, climbing on top of each other," he said. "A great deal of elderly [people] had fallen down and were injured."
When the second bomb went off, people were confused and "just stopped, completely in chaos."
"We got to the scene and we couldn't get to the victims because of scaffolding and fences so we knew they had to come down," Fiola said. "We just started grabbing that scaffolding, tearing it down."
The priorities in that moment were to get to the victims in order to get them out of there and to secure the scene, Fiola said.
"It is incredible to think of the amount of adrenaline going through you at that point. Those scaffoldings are not supposed to just come down," he said. "We man-handled those things and ripped them apart. The Hercules comes into play."
Fiola said he doesn't consider the actions of him and his soldiers as heroic. He said they were just doing their jobs. He credited the doctors and nurses who quickly arrived on-scene with saving lives.
"It's not just being humble," he said. "There's a certain type of person that usually joins the military or is a nurse, firefighter, police officer or doctor. Most of those people just have that switch that turns on when you can deal with that situation. Everything seems really, really slow and you can focus on what you need to do."
|Mother Helping Daughter's Dream Come True Caught in Chaos|
For the past year, Kristine Biagiotti has been training to run the Boston marathon with her 18-year-old daughter Kayla, who is severely disabled. They were the first mother-daughter wheelchair team to participate in the race's history.
Kayla suffers from a mitochondrial disease that gives her the cognitive abilities of a 3-year-old, her mom said, but she has always loved marathons.
"For her to go from start to finish was very important for me and for her," Biagiotti told ABCNews.com. They ran together to raise money for a children's hospital.
Between the wheelchair and Kayla, Biagiotti was pushing 145 pounds and had trained to be able to complete the 26.2 miles in less than six hours.
As they neared the end of the race, a tired Biagiotti asked her fiance, Brian, to help her get Kayla to the finish line. As they approached, the first bomb went off. She described it as a "deafening boom" and said they felt the force of the blast.
"It was right next to us, and my fiance Brian was running on the left side of Kayla's stroller. He actually took shrapnel to the side of his head and ear area," she said. "Brian just took command of the chair and started pushing Kayla as fast as he could toward the finish line. We were obviously very scared and concerned for Kayla's safety."
With blood streaming down Brian's neck and shoulder, he helped get Kayla across the finish line and into the medical tent.
"At that point, we just knew that something terrible had happened," Biagiotti said.
Amid the confusion and panic, Biagiotti said she saw countless moments of kindness.
"From the volunteers to police to the firemen, everyone was scrambling to help everyone," she said. "Yes, this was a cowardly act and it's a shame that it happened here in Boston, but to see people pull together and total strangers helping one another ... it's amazing."
"People here in Boston are resilient and will help get each other through this," Biagiotti said.