A friend of mine is a veteran paramedic. Unfortunately, he's also a crazed Cubs fan, but I called him because I wanted to know:
What makes people run to danger, rather than avoid it?
"The media wants to make us out like heroes, but there were lots of civilians running toward the bombs, too," he said. "We have more training. They don't. I guess we're all crazy."
Adrenaline kicks in, and it can often consume the untrained responder or civilian. It consumes trained veterans, too, only they recognize the signs.
"You get that one dazed moment and the massive rush of adrenaline to go forward. You are supposed to be scanning, slow, scanning, looking, but you get tunnel vision. We know this," said the paramedic.
"Physiologically, your eyes' focus narrows, your heart rate speeds up, you lose saliva in the mouth, you get that hyper feeling. That's why they tell you not to rush in. And still, it happens, you rush in."
Like so many other responders across America, he watched the videos from Boston repeatedly as they were broadcast, studying them. He told me that in most cases, the urge to help overwhelms the training.
"You see the video, the first responders who went there violated everything we've been taught about terrorism," he said. "We're told not to go in immediately. To wait for a secondary explosion. Technically speaking, you're supposed to take a backward step. But who does?"
He explained it this way: You're asleep and your wife elbows you awake, shouting that there's a fire in the house across the street and there are kids inside. The prudent, reasonable thing to do is to call 911.
But something happens inside human beings.
"It's like a switch gets kicked on. You're not really thinking clearly. Your training says not to rush in when you hear that first bomb. There's always that second terrorist explosion to kill off police, firefighters and paramedics.
"Now you've got cops and paramedics down, and the commander at the scene closes it down and won't let anyone else in. That's what the terrorist wants. Because people from the first blast are going to bleed out. An artery gets nicked, you have four or five minutes before they're gone."
And even with all that, they still rush in. No snark. No speculation. No words. Just acts.
"Because that's what we do," he said. "That's what we do."