WBUR Oral History Project: Bruce Mendelsohn
Interviewed by: Jayne Guberman
Date: October 24, 2013
Location: MIT (Cambridge, MA)
Recorder: Kristi Girdharry
Photo: Bruce Mendelsohn at the Boston Marathon memorial in Copley Square (Photo provided by Bruce Mendelsohn)
Bruce Mendelsohn is the Director of Communications & Outreach for an engineering leadership program at MIT. Active in many sports, he has run 17 marathons, though 2014 is the first time he will run in Boston.
Bruce was a spectator and first responder at the Boston Marathon who had come to support his brother who was running it for the first time. They were at an after party at Marlo Marketing & Communications, in a third-floor office located adjacent to the finish line, when the first bomb exploded. Bruce instinctively ran down into the street and began helping care for and evacuating injured people. He tied a tourniquet on the severely injured leg of a young Northeastern student, Victoria McGrath, and helped get her to the medical tent. The photo of Jimmy Plourde, a firefighter, carrying Victoria became an iconic image of the bombings.
Bruce also took a photo of the scene, from the third floor window of the office where he had been celebrating, before leaving with his brother. He tweeted this photo and, within ten minutes, was contacted by the Associated Press. Numerous national and international media outlets contacted him, as his tweets became an important source for information in the days following the bombings. In the interview, Bruce reflects on how the response to his photos and tweets were an “eye-opener” for him about the role of social media in communications about contemporary events.
Bruce discusses the personal impact of these events on his life, the impact of his Jewish values on his actions and attitudes, and how participating in interviews and media programs have become a form of “therapy by media” for him.
Audio Clip 1
Bruce discusses the photo he took and tweeted of the first explosion, and how it spread like wildfire via social media (eventually getting picked up by the Associated Press).
Audio Clip 2
Bruce reflects on the impact of these events six months later: how they affected him personally and how they transformed his understanding of humanity as well.
Audio Clip 3
Bruce discusses how in his faith (Judaism), saving one life is akin to saving a world (the Hebrew concept of Pikuach nefesh)
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