IN THE SAVANNA OF THE BACK BAY, a few tenths of a mile from the devastation, all the herds were charging toward her. The runners were fleeing something awful, screaming about explosions. The authorities were shouting something urgent, commanding everyone to follow the stampede away from the chaos on Boylston Street.
Instead, Natalie Stavas ran toward it. She isn’t a cop or firefighter and had every right to flee. But something compelled her to head toward the trouble. The petite blond who lives in the South End and was competing in her fourth Boston Marathon, this time with an injured foot, jumped over a barricade on Hereford Street and sprinted down a back alley. As she approached Boylston, a couple of blocks from the bloody finish line, a cluster of cops barked at her to turn around. She refused, screaming: “I’m a kids’ doctor! Let me help.”
Months after the Marathon bombings, Stavas, now 32, smiles in embarrassment at how that comment must have sounded at the time. During the interviews she gave in the immediate aftermath, she substituted “pediatric” for “kids” in her reconstructed dialogue, which somehow sounded better. By now she knows her choice of words really doesn’t matter. Whatever she said was enough for the police to let her through. “A kids’ doctor is still a doctor,” she says, “right?”
Stavas, a pediatric resident training jointly at Boston Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital, saw blood everywhere. She could even taste its metallic tang in the smoky air. There had already been two blasts. Chances were good there would be more. Still, she rushed in to help the wounded.