Aid can't end with first responders

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Jen Floyd Engel

Jen Floyd Engel, selected as the top columnist in the 2012 Associated Press Sports Editors annual contest, started working at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997 and became a columnist in 2003 before joining Sports opinions? She's never short of them. And love her or hate her, she'll be just another one of the boys. Follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook.


There is maybe no greater phrase in sports than “put his team on his back.” I have used this many times because, for me, it speaks to will and resilience and what I love most about competition — a single player, usually in the face of daunting odds, refusing to be beaten and thereby giving strength to those around him.

This aptly describes former Patriots lineman Joe Andruzzi on Monday at the Boston Marathon. He put his team on his back; his team, in this case, a frightened and injured woman struggling after a homemade bomb exploded near the finish line. We do not know details other than he picked her up. He carried her. He responded.

Andruzzi was one of many first responders Monday, his contribution more widely noticed only because of what he used to do for a living. There were so many of them running toward the chaos, and I envy them just a little.

I envy their instinct to run toward, not away. I envy their bravery, hoping I would do likewise if ever in such a position. I mostly envy their ability to help instead of watch helplessly, as I did, while gruesome images flashed on TV.

What I am reminded of is the world also needs second responders in the aftermath of tragedies.

And third responders.

And fourth.

This is who is left in places like Haiti and New Orleans. They come in after the first wave leaves, when the suffering is less acute but no less real, when the tragedy slips from the news and consciousness. They always do. This is not because we stop caring. We get busy. New things happen. Our attention gets diverted.

And the truth is this will happen before help is no longer needed. The survivors, the ones with amputated limbs, will need prosthetics, and they’ll need to learn how to walk again. Almost all will need hope and help.

The first waves started arriving almost immediately, gestures big and small by Bostonians, by runners, by Americans, by humans. Bostonians offered up random acts of kindness to discombobulated runners while a guy like Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola epitomized doing what you can, where you are, with what you have.

@DannyAmendola tweeted: “I will DONATE $100 for EVERY pass I catch next season to whatever “Boston Marathon Relief Fund” there is. And $200 for any dropped pass.”

And since then, the always classy Patriots organization, under the Krafts, has begun taking donations ( for relief for victims with plans to match $100,000. Popular Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork raised more than $12,000 in three hours with plans to match.

Already we have seen a fund started to help the Richard family, whose 8-year-old son Martin was murdered by whoever detonated these bombs. Looking at pictures of him, his big smile in his Boston Bruins jersey and in another holding a sign for peace, do not break my heart so much as they make me angry. Knowing he was there with his family, knowing his mom has a brain injury and his sister lost a leg only adds to those feelings. These are not combatants, and whoever targeted them is gutless.


See photos from the response, aftermath at Boston Marathon explosions.

I want to pick this family up, Andruzzi style, and comfort them. This fund is the next best thing. It is what being a second responder is all about, and it is what Andruzzi excels at actually.

Why Andruzzi was at the finish line Monday, in a place to help, is because he is a second responder. His charity — the Joe Andruzzi Foundation — raises money for cancer patients and their families as well as for pediatric brain cancer research. They are not on the front lines of cancer. They are not the first responders. Those are the doctors and families and the kids. What Andruzzi and his foundation provide are the second wave, the helpers of the helpers. And their beliefs are a perfect battle cry for second responders everywhere:

We believe in electric guitar, not sad piano.

We believe in silly snapshots, not moody black and whites.

We believe in deep laughs, not long faces.

We believe in exciting futures, not uncertain presents.

We believe in carefree jokes, not heavy hearts.

We believe in cutting loose, not reining in.

We believe in what can be, not what can’t.

What they believe in is it matters not what order in which you respond to those in need but rather that you show up. The first responders have carried them this far, and it is on us to now take the handoff.

I’m all in. How about you?

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