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Victims’ voices: a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing tells her story

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Karen and Ron Brassard minutes before the first bomb was detonated. Photo provided by Karen Brassard.

This report is part of AOAV’s research on the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013. The full report, ‘Blood on the Streets of Boston’, can be read here. The main findings and summary can be seen here. The report considered the mental health support offered to survivors and witnesses, for more on this see here, as well as the services that were offered, see here. As part of the report it AOAV also researched the medical care and financial support provided to survivors – this report can be read here – and the health impacts the bombing had – here. It was also important to consider the ‘Victims’ Voices’, from those who survived the attack. To read these please go here, here, and here.

“It started off as a beautiful, gorgeous day. We met some friends in town, had some lunch and then went to watch our friend cross the finish line. I was a big dork and had made signs because it was her first time running the marathon and we were pretty excited to see her come through. We were right at the finish line, and were there for maybe ten minutes before the bomb went off.

There were seven of us there together as a group, and it’s strange because our memories are different of what we saw and what we felt. My husband remembers seeing the people around him and hearing all of that and I don’t remember any of it. I remember seeing my little unit, my husband and my daughter and her friend. I saw glass on the ground and the air was grey. That is all very vivid to me. But I don’t remember seeing people around me. I didn’t see my friend who was right beside me.

There were some significant injuries in our group. My husband had a torn artery, a large section of his calf muscle is gone and he was bleeding pretty profusely. He was in trouble. A young man that had just finished the race came back and literally held my husband’s leg together and stopped him from bleeding out. I didn’t realize that I was hurt until later. Because I had seen how badly my husband was hurt, I think my brain just didn’t accept that I was in pain. It was only once he was off in an ambulance that people around me told me that I needed to be attended to.

My daughter had 200 shrapnel injuries to both of her legs, and my friend was the girl who lost both of her legs. We were very close to the bomb.

I had shrapnel in both my legs. I was very fortunate that it didn’t affect the bones or anything, but I had a torn tendon in my ankle on my left side and I ended up getting a bone infection. I had compartment syndrome in my right leg so they had to cut me open on both sides of my leg to try and release the pressure. I still don’t have feeling on the right side of my lower leg. I have also been diagnosed with a concussive brain injury. I knew something was wrong, I knew that I was not who I was before. I would forget words or I’d find myself, you know, hesitating in my conversation style and I just couldn’t focus.

My husband and I both had to have three surgeries. We’re incredibly lucky that we’re walking, you know, getting through. I mean we have long-term injuries that we’ll be dealing with forever.

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Ron Brassard being loaded into an ambulance. Photo provided by Karen Brassard.

I know that people were frustrated with some of the services, but the way that I look at it is, this is something completely out of the ordinary, this is not something that the State or the country deals with every day. And so they’re learning and growing and trying to prepare themselves, so I think we all have to be kind of patient with each other. I’m incredibly pleased with what they’ve made available to all of us, I don’t know how much more they can do. I really feel like they are there. If I need anything, they’re there.

For me, unfortunately, it’s something that happened. Nobody expects anything like that and I don’t know how much responsibility other people have to take care of me, you know? Everything that the State has been doing, I see it as a gift, something that they didn’t have to do. They don’t have to, it’s not the State’s fault that this happened, it’s not the Federal government’s fault that it happened. It happened. And they’re going out of their way to make us feel supported and I just think that’s a positive.

We were all changed. It’s a very difficult thing to explain to people, but we’re just not the same. We still have emotional things that we are trying to cope with and we’re still dealing with the changes that have happened in our lives. But at this point we try to just go on with our day. We just want to kind of be normal again, and not the ‘bomb people.’ ”

To read AOAV’s full report on the support provided to the victims of the 2013 Boston bombing, please read Blood on the Streets of Boston.’ 

(Told to Jane Hunter.)


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