He sprinted toward the chaos and helped save a life. The Shores C. Salter Citizenship Award honors his bravery

A man and woman embrace while smiling
Shores Salter and Roseann Sdoia at Friday’s memorial event on the Boston campus. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

by Beth Treffeisen and Ian Thomsen

As part of an annual tradition, Shores Salter was on Boylston Street with his friends from Northeastern to celebrate the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. Walking toward the finish line, they heard a loud boom, followed moments later by a second explosion. 

Salter looked across the street and saw smoke, blood and body parts. He hopped over the guardrail and sprinted toward the chaos to see if he could help.

He came upon a woman yelling. Her right leg was severely injured. Salter made a tourniquet with his belt to stanch the bleeding. A police officer and firefighter followed with additional support.

Headshot of Shores Salter
Salter, a 2015 Northeastern graduate, helped save Sdoia’s life in the frightening moments after the bombings. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Two weeks after the bombing, he learned the woman was Roseann Sdoia. She had lost most of her leg after an above-the-knee amputation, but she was alive.

“When we found out about Roseanne, it was like a massive burden and a massive weight lifted off my shoulders,” Salter says. “From there, our friendship and relationship really took off.” 

A few weeks later, they reunited at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charleston.

A decade later, Salter, Sdoia, police officer Shana Cottone and firefighter Mike Materia share an unbreakable bond. 

“It is a piece of our story,” Salter says. “But life continues to move on. And I think we have all been instrumental in one another doing that.”

Salter and Sdoia were reunited Friday at a Northeastern event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the marathon bombings. 

“It brings so much joy to be back on campus,” Salter told a large crowd gathered on Cabot Quad on an unseasonably warm afternoon. “It’s tough to put into words how humbling this experience has been.”

“That day 10 years ago lives in infamy and [yet] there has been a lot of positivity that we can pull from people like Roseanne,” said Salter, who added Heather Abbott and Jeff Bauman to the list of victims “who have continued to thrive and find new meaning in their lives.”

Sdoia expressed gratitude to Northeastern for planting a tree alongside the popular walkway at Cabot Center.

“It’s still very surreal what I went through, that something like this could happen here,” Sdoia said. “But we’ve all moved on hopefully in some form or fashion. Planting a tree to commemorate the 10-year anniversary and to be able to watch it grow is so symbolic to how things have gone over the last 10 years, with people growing one way or another in their lives, and I think that’s very important for me to recognize for myself.”

Sdoia urged the crowd to be inspired and act on that sense of inspiration as the Boston Marathon returns on Monday, which in Boston is celebrated as Patriots Day.

“Go out and enjoy this fun weekend that represents Boston,” she said. “I think it’s very symbolic that it is Patriots Day—and that it’s important to remember and go out and do something good, whether it’s for yourself or someone else.”

In 2015, the year Salter earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Northeastern (with a master’s degree in chemistry and chemical biology to come the following year), Northeastern established the Shores C. Salter Citizenship Award, which recognizes a student who made outstanding contributions to the community through service, leadership and education.

The award went to Maggie SextonDwyer, a Northeastern civil engineering and architecture student who will be graduating next month. Jim Madigan, the Northeastern athletic director who moderated the commemoration, spoke of SextonDwyer’s extensive service work that “truly embodies the leadership and service of Shores Salter.”

“Shores’ story with Roseann is such a light that we can hold on to in the dark spot in Boston’s history,” SextonDwyer said. “The relationship that they’ve been able to form from that event is such a treasure.

“On a different plane, but in a similar way, I’ve been able to form a lot of incredible relationships that really shaped my Northeastern experience,” SextonDwyer said of her community service. “Shores, your outlook has been so inspiring for me. Your steadfastness and humility, loyalty and dedication to your community, your civic action—it is extremely moving. And the most important part of it is just how second-nature it was for you, which I really admire.”

Salter, 30, now lives in San Diego and works as an account executive for Modern Health, a company that does software and technology around mental health.

Every April, his thoughts return to that day, now a decade ago.

“There’s a lot of emotions that have come with it,” he says. “I think my perspective has changed over time. But, I would still say to this day, from a singular day or singular experience, it’s the most impactful I’ve ever had.”

In March 2017, Sdoia published a book on the experience called, “Perfect Strangers: Friendship, Strength, and Recovery After Boston’s Worst Day.” Being able to share and talk about the experience helped Salter mentally. 

That same year, Salter decided to run the Boston Marathon. 

“I was able to embrace Roseann on Boylston Street, which is such a cool thing to think back on,” Salter says. “While I may not have finished at the time that I had set out as a goal for myself, I did finish and was really proud.” 

He feels confident that he would go back and tell his 20-year-old self to do the same thing. 

“It will always be a piece of me,” Salter says.

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