A Boston Marathon good Samaritan has been identified, thanks to a grateful runner's Facebook plea.
Laura Wellington, 25, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was half a mile from the finish line when the bombs went off, promptly halting the race.
Police diverted her away from the finish line where her family and boyfriend, Bryan O'Neil, were planning to meet her. She panicked.
"Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them. Diverted away from the finish line, I started walking down Mass Ave towards Symphony Hall still not knowing where my family was. Right before the intersection of Huntington, I was able to get in touch with Bryan and found out he was with my family and 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," Wellington wrote.
As she wept, a marathon participant who had already completed the race passed by — and gave her his medal.
Wellington wrote about the kind man and his wife on Facebook.
"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 okay, if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be okay. The man then asked me if I finished to which I nodded 'no.' 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."
She ended her post with gratefulness:
"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. 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 okay."
Her post went viral.
Soon Wellington had a name: Brent Cunningham.
When the Sitka, Alaska, man learned Wellington was looking for him — his daughter, Kailee, recognized the story on Facebook and immediately identified her parents — he contacted her over Facebook.
"This is the craziest story," Cunningham, regional director of Alaska Young Life, told the Toronto Star by telephone. "I never thought we'd connect again. Why would we? How would we?"
"I just wanted to let her know she was amazing. I said, 'You're a finisher in my eyes.' That was that," Cunningham added. "She was so emotional she couldn’t talk. And I’ve been emotional about it at least five times since then."
Of his generous gift, Cunningham insists he has no regrets about giving away his medal.
"She needed it more than I needed it. I just wanted her to know that 'you’re worth it.' With everything that has happened, our world is looking for hope. My whole life is about loving God and loving others. That's who I am."
He told Channel 2 that in times of crisis, it's important to seek out moments of shared humanity.
"It's my way to care for someone," Cunningham said. "I didn't know the families who went through the great trauma they've been through, but I guess it's just a great reminder to know where you're at today: you can love someone in your own world."