Savin Scoop owner Joe Conway loves many things about his community. One is the familiar sight of families who stop by his Dorchester ice cream shop. Parents line up with their children - this time of year, usually after a baseball game with the local Little League. They order a cone. They giggle, like kids do. Conway knows them all by face. He knows most by name.
It breaks his heart, he says, to know that one neighbor will no longer come through that door. Killed in the Boston Marathon was eight year-old Martin Richard – a little boy, a neighbor, a part of this community.
“They are such a great people, incredibly family-oriented,” mourns Conway, who was close to the devastation himself. On Marathon Monday he stood among spectators outside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, just 500 feet away from one of two blasts that ripped through the finish line. And for the second time this month, he found himself thrust into the midst of an emergency – and playing the role, like many others around him, of an everyday hero.
On April 1, Conway sprang to action when a stabbing victim stumbled to the sidewalk outside of Savin Scoop. It was the middle of the afternoon. She had been stabbed six times. She had with her a baby carriage smeared with blood.
“All she could say was ‘They stabbed me, they stabbed me,’” recalls Conway. The out business owner jumped to her aid. He and a neighbor applied pressure to the woman’s wounds and worked to keep her calm and conscious until paramedics arrived.
“I didn’t realize how bad the wounds were until the rescue workers started cutting off her clothes,” said Conway. “Blood was pouring. They just kept telling me, ‘Don’t let go [of the pressure].’”
The woman was transported to Brigham and Women’s Hospital. But first Conway had one more important act to make: he made sure to clean the baby carriage.
“I grabbed towels and just started. People said, ‘It a crime scene!’ I don’t care. This baby was not leaving like that.”
On Marathon Monday, Conway again found himself helping. As first responders rushed to the aid of those in the explosion, and while streams of spectators rushed away from the smoke, Conway hanged back with Marathon security: they cordoned off barrels, where bombs could have been hidden. They shouted for passerby to stay away. Then Conway made his way away from the scene, through a plaza by the Prudential Mall food courts. He says some folks by the plaza thought they had heard gunshots from the mall, and began running toward the explosion. He shouted to them to head back the over way.
To be clearheaded in these moments is commendable. To leap to any action is brave. But Conway says he doesn’t consider himself heroic: those are the first responders who rushed to billowing smoke, he says. He simply responded the way any neighbor would – whether to someone on his own street, or to strangers who share his city.
“It’s human nature to help,” says Conway, who believes in the little acts, too. After the stabbing incident, he and Dorchester’s Vargas & Vargas Insurance Agency worked to create a “Day of Kindness,” at Savin Scoop – handing out free ice cream to friends and neighbors.
And he is reminded that But there are reminders that in times of loss and tragedy, gratitude and appreciation for community continues.
A few days after the Dorchester stabbing, the victim’s mother came into Savin Scoop. She wasn’t there for a cone, but for a hug.
“I came around the corner and there she was,” says Conway. “She said, ‘Thank you for saving my daughter’s life.’ And then I realized who she was.”
But even if he hadn’t he probably would have hugged her anyway. She is a neighbor, after all.
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