, Salem, MA

October 24, 2013

Peabody EMTs honored for marathon response


---- — PEABODY — When Darrain Ezekiel reached the medical tent in the aftermath of last April’s Boston Marathon bombing, he saw things that not even a quarter-century of work as an EMT and a nurse could have prepared him for.

“It was horrific,” he recalls. People who only moments before had been celebrating one of America’s premier sports events were lying in streams of blood, crying out as first responders worked to close savage, open wounds.

It seemed entirely possible, with so much carnage, that more bombs had been planted and were waiting to go off. Ezekiel didn’t give that much thought as he made repeated trips to the tent.

“I’m an EMT,” he says. “You can be scared afterward. Then you don’t have time to think. Your training kicks in.”

Yesterday, Ezekiel was one of two Peabody residents honored, along with co-workers from Armstrong Ambulance in Arlington, for his quick response to the bombing. Bobbie Tremblay, a Peabody High graduate, was a dispatcher who directed the ambulance traffic coming and going from the scene, helping to keep the death toll at three, despite more than 250 casualties.

The ambulance workers received a citation, presented by state Sen. Kenneth Donnelly of Arlington in the company’s headquarters in Arlington.

The document celebrated their “brave, outstanding and dedicated service.”

Also present at the ceremony were J. P. and Paul Norden, who each lost a leg in the blast. J. P. was hurried from the scene aboard an Armstrong Ambulance.

Yesterday, he shook hands with his rescuers, Sean Galinas of Cambridge and Matthew O’Connor of Braintree, as well as other EMTs.

Ezekiel isn’t sure what became of the several people he carried from the scene, some of whom were very seriously injured. In such cases, he says, he works “to make sure they don’t go further into shock. You focus on the patient.” You get their feet elevated to ease their hearts. “You talk to the patient and keep them talking. You keep their minds off their wounds.”

Born in Philadelphia, Ezekiel, 48, moved north in 1996 to get away from a troubled city. He’s lived in Peabody the last eight years. He notes that he trained a lot of the men and women honored for their work at the bomb site.

“They all reacted well,” he says.

Bobbie Tremblay, 50, worked 18 years as an EMT before moving to the job as dispatcher.

She worked with five others directing ambulances to various hospitals on the day of the bombing.

“You don’t think this is going to happen in our country,” she says.

Despite the shock, Tremblay says there was no panic, no confusion at the dispatch center. “It went very well.”

Within 10 minutes of the last blast, according to the company’s operating officer, Richard Raymond, Armstrong had 10 ambulances at the scene. In a few hours, Tremblay recalls, it was over.

Ezekiel says his crews are ready for any trouble that might occur during the ongoing World Series, another potential target.

While they’ll feel pressure, it will be different from that felt by millionaire baseball players, he says.

“If I make a mistake, somebody can die. Your life is in my hands, he says.

Norden’s mom, Liz, illustrated the point when she stood behind her son’s wheelchair and, tearing up, said, “You gave me back one of the most precious things — that’s this guy right here.”

Alan Burke can be reached at