Give This Man a Medal!

[Our thanks to Pat Cook of Middlesex Community College for sharing his story of a 2013 marathon hero.]

This is a story about my friend and fellow “E Streeter,” Lowell Massachusetts Police Officer Nick Laganas, and his first Boston Marathon. Nick and I are part of the PT team at the Lowell Police Academy that helps train police officers to run.

Nick is already a running machine, but this was his first venture onto the vaunted Boston course. Nick impressively made it across the finish line in 3:57:27, and was at the first water station in the finish chute, grabbing a water, when the first bomb blast went off. Instead of continuing down the finish chute, Nick did what law enforcement officers nationwide do – HE RAN TOWARD THE DANGER, even after just logging 26.2 miles of running!

After making sure his parents who were there to cheer him on were uninjured and safe, Nick found himself offering first aid to some of the ailing victims. His photo can be seen in some of the news coverage of the more graphic shots of the site of the first explosion.

Sgt. Laganas and family on his return from Iraq

Anyone who knows him knows that besides being a proud Army military police sergeant (a veteran who served in Baghdad, Iraq), a great guy, as well as the Mill City’s combo of the Dark Knight and Spartacus, Nick is also a pretty modest guy who shies away from the attention.

But in this case it’s warranted.

You see, because Nick didn’t continue further down the chute, he never was able to pick up a medal to mark his completion of the marathon. He wasn’t able to grab it in the immediate days after either, when the BAA was taking care of the many thousands of runners who weren’t able to complete the historic race because of the chaos.

So those of us among the E Streeters took it upon ourselves to chase down a medal for Nick. Fellow E Streeter, Police Academy runner, and Beantown Bootcamper Joe Patuto, who also ran Boston this year in yet another of his many marathons, was quick to get the wheels in progress to help me secure a medal for this guy.

Nick with Barry Scanlon, a fellow E Streeter who helps out at the Police Academy.

For the outcome of our efforts, I’ll quote Katie Lannan’s report in the Lowell Sun:

LOWELL – First-time marathoner Nick Laganas ran the full 26.2 miles in Boston last Monday, then turned around and ran to help when the first bomb went off.

Nick at Mile 16

Laganas, a Lowell police officer and Army veteran, had crossed the Boston Marathon finish line when he heard the blast. He recognized the sounds and sights of an improvised explosive device – a familiar experience from his deployment to Iraq – and so he set off toward the victims, determined to help. “I had just gotten a water bottle and took a sip,” Laganas said. “My legs were wobbly. You know those nightmares where you’re trying to punch, but you can’t swing, or you’re trying to run, but you can’t move your legs? It was like that.”

After checking on his parents, who were watching the race, Laganas jumped into the fray to administer first aid.

“Because he turned around and helped the victims, he didn’t continue down and get his medal,” said Patrick Cook, one of Laganas’ marathon supporters. Cook (who ran the last leg of the marathon to help his son, Andrew – who was running his first) and other running buddies tracked down Laganas’s medal and presented it to him during a break in a session at the Lowell Police Department Training Center Tuesday afternoon.

Fellow runner Joe Patuto went down to Boston on Friday morning to pick up the medal, but with much of the metropolitan area on lockdown during a manhunt for the suspected bomber, the Boston Athletic Association offices were closed. He tried again this week, and came back with the medal Laganas’s running mates say he earned not only for finishing the race in less than four hours, but for his valor that day.

“His photo has shown up on some of the international news sites,” said Cook, Middlesex Community College executive director of public affairs. “He’s the guy in black. You can see the back of his head as he’s trying to help some folks.”

Although Cook called Laganas’s actions incredible, Laganas deflected the praise.

“The first responders there, they were so fast and so quick that I didn’t even need to do much at all,” Laganas said. “Medics were all over, Boston police were everywhere.” He said the reaction was inspiring to him as a first responder. “You turned around to see if someone needed a tourniquet, and they’re good,” he said.


At the Lowell Police Department training facilities,
Officer Nick Laganas holds his Boston Marathon medal
(With Lowell Police’s Joe Patuto, Barry Scanlon, and Pat Cook.)

After receiving his overdue medal, Laganas said he’s already got his sights set on the 2014 Marathon. “I’m going to run it next year, totally,” he said. “I probably wouldn’t have done it again, but under the circumstances, I definitely am.”

Nick Laganas
Lowell, Massachusetts
April 21, 2014
Age – 31
Bib # 28048