One year later, we spoke with a runner, a first responder, a spectator, and others about that life-altering day last April, and where they are now
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Kathryn Gabriele (on left, with fellow 2013 Perkins Team member Matt Carlson)
No. of times running the Boston Marathon: 2
Where was she during the bombings: The 29-year-old high school teacher who moved to Boston from Ohio in June 2010 was about a half-mile from the finish line when police officers told her and fellow runners to stop and wait. Forty-five minutes later, all runners and spectators were instructed to turn back. Though she didn't hear the blasts and the police weren't sharing any information, she could see the thick smoke in the distance and knew something had gone very wrong. Freezing and starving, Gabriele meandered with the crowd toward Kenmore Square, more than a half-mile away, where she bought water and a sweatshirt and waited for a friend to pick her up. She didn't fully learn what had happened until that evening when she turned on the TV.
Where she is a year later: Though Gabriele moved back to Ohio to be closer to family that August, she is planning her return to Boston this April to finally cross the finish line for the first time (the Boston Athletic Association invited runners who had made it at least halfway to come back this year and finish what they had started). Looking back, she's relieved that she didn't complete her goal last year. “I'm so glad that I stopped to eat my friend's jellybeans and take a photo at mile 22, and that I stopped to drink water and stretch at mile 25. If I hadn't done that, I might have been right in the middle of it. I was very fortunate,” she says. After training with her local Boston running group before leaving the city last summer, she’s ready to earn her medal. “I need to do this for me, for the other runners, and for my community,” she says. “I'm going to finish and I'm going to enjoy it.”
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No. of times running the Boston Marathon: 2
Where was he during the bombings: After completing his first Boston marathon in an impressive 3:23:41, the 49-year-old Jacksonville, FL-resident ducked into an Eastern Mountain Sports store near the finish line to charge his cell phone. Around 2:49 p.m., Green left the store and started to cross the street when he heard the first boom. Thinking it was something ceremonial, he turned toward the sound and within seconds saw, heard, smelled, and felt the second bomb explode about 50 yards ahead of him. “Having been in New York City on 9/11, I decided to get closer to document what was happening. I took one snapshot with my phone, and that was the picture,” says Green, who later sent the photo to the FBI when he saw a similar, grainier version of the same shot taken by a building security camera all over the news. That photo helped authorities identify and capture 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was wearing a distinctive white baseball cap as he walked way from the scene. After taking the critical footage, Green tried to help the injured, in particular a little girl whose leg had been blown off, but he was immediately forced by police to turn back.
Where he is a year later: The 16-time Ironman finisher completed the Brazil 135 (that's 135 miles) in January and plans to participate in Boston this year, though he feels conflicted about it. “I know that the running community and the larger community that makes the Boston Marathon what it is will rally to create something that will help us move on, so it's going to be extremely meaningful and exciting,” Green says. “On the other hand, the fact that it happened at all and that tragedy is making it such a big thing now...I won't ever be able to erase that image of that little girl with the missing leg. Thank goodness she survived.”
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No. of times spectating the Boston Marathon: 1
Where was she during the bombings: Gregory and her five-year-old son, Noah, flew from Texas to New York to spend her birthday weekend with her long-distance boyfriend, Pete DiMartino. That Monday they all headed to Boston to watch DiMartino's 51-year-old mom complete her second marathon. After a brief stop to see her at mile 17, they made their way to the finish line, about 10 feet from the first horrific blast in front of the Marathon Sports store.
“Noah was so bored,” Gregory says. “I told him to play with the rocks by my feet, and that's what he was doing when the first bomb went off." She remembers getting thrown back on top of him. “They say my body shielded him and saved his life. As his mom, I would have absolutely protected him in a heartbeat, but at that moment, I had no idea what was going on—it happened so fast,” she says.
In the process, she took a massive beating, especially her legs, which were torn apart from the knee down. “I never lost consciousness, but I couldn't move and could barely breath from all the smoke. All I could do was look around for Noah. When I found him behind me, I reached out for him and saw all the bones sticking out of my left hand and blood dripping. It was at that moment that I really thought I was going to die.” She mouthed “I love you” DiMartino, who was lying next to her with shrapnel wounds, second-degree burns, and 90 percent of his right Achilles tendon blown off.
When a first responder showed up minutes later, he was honest with her and said, “This is really, really bad, but we're going to take care of you.” Gregory spent the next seven days in a coma at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the same hospital that would treat the surviving bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. “I always had to wheel past his room for my surgeries. It was crazy,” says Gregory, who received 11 operations over the course of 39 days while in Boston.
Where she is a year later: After a total of 16 surgeries to date, Gregory has still not been able to return to work as an account executive at a corporate housing firm and may need to go under the knife a few more times, including a possible amputation of her left leg, which hasn't improved. “I firmly believe my leg is just a leg. It's not my life. If I have to get a prosthetic, it's not the end of the world for me,” she says. But it will all have to wait until after the honeymoon. Though still recovering himself, DiMartino proposed in October 2013. When theKnot found out about their engagement, the company offered to pay for the couple’s dream wedding. “We were very humbled and so appreciative,” she says. The couple said “I do” on April 4 and will honeymoon in Thailand in June, also thanks to TheKnot.
Photo: Allan Zepeda Photography
The First Responder
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No. of times volunteering at the Boston Marathon: 3
Where was he during the bombings: As part of the Boston Marathon medical personnel at the finish line, Foley expected to help ailing runners—he had no idea he'd save their lives too. Stationed just 30 yards away from the first bombsite, Foley dashed into the smoke toward fallen runners. Right when he was lifting one runner to his feet, Foley heard a voice yell, “Medical, medical! Need you now!” and ran to help. As he got closer, his senses began registering everything. “Hearing the increasing sounds of people screaming, smelling the smoke, seeing blood everywhere—people were literally slipping on blood, there was so much of it—is still very real to me today,” says Foley, who is the director of sports medicine and an athletic trainer at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. From the moment Foley and his medical team hit the scene, they were on what he calls “hyper-drive.” In 22 minutes, they evacuated 97 people to nine separate emergency rooms around the city.
Where he is a year later: At the 110th annual Philadelphia Sports Writers Association awards banquet in January, Foley was honored with the 2014 Most Courageous Athlete Award. “I was both humbled and honored to accept the award on behalf of the hundreds of people who ran toward, and not away from, the blast on that fateful day,” says Foley, who is volunteering on the medical team again at this year's Boston Marathon. “I need to be there in remembrance of those who were less fortunate or have fallen, and also for all the first responders who were the real heroes that day. I've learned that life can change in an instant. How you react will define you from that point on.”
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No. of times running the Boston Marathon: 2
Where was she during the bombings: Hours earlier, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in the 10,000-meter had narrowly missed medaling at her first Boston Marathon—a race she had dreamed about since growing up as a kid in nearby Marblehead, MA. She was eating lunch at the Fairmont Copley Hotel when she heard the blasts from about a block over. Flanagan and other elite runners were rushed to the third floor, where they turned on the TV and learned about the bombings. “I was in total disbelief,” she says. “New Englanders don't like it when you mess with them. There's a sense of pride and honor to this city; we're tough people.”
Where she is a year later: Flanagan is back, and this time she's aiming not just for the podium but to win. If she succeeds, she'll be the first American victor since 1985. “This will be one of the best Boston Marathons ever,” she says, adding that it will take a lot of mental energy. “At times I've allowed my emotions to get the best of me in a race. It's going to take a lot of focus on my part, especially at this event where everyone will be thinking of other people and racing for others. I think there's this longing to see an American win, so I want to be that hope and joy for people on that day and bring life back to the city.”
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No. of times running the Boston Marathon: 1
Where she was during the bombings: Though Lux wasn't scheduled to work at Massachusetts General Hospital on April 15, 2013, the trauma ICU nurse called and offered to come in the minute she heard the news. “The day before the marathon, I ran my first 5K [pictured above] and crossed that same finish line. My family and I were just there 24 hours earlier,” says the 34-year-old from Boston. The hospital didn't need the extra help that Monday, so the first time Lux came face to face with the survivors wasn't until Wednesday. Though she says she usually doesn’t let herself get close to patients, she instantly felt protective of Marc Fucarile, a 34-year-old who had been watching the marathon from Boylston Street. The bombs threw him down, scalding more than half his body with second- and third-degree burns, filling him with shrapnel, and severely damaging his legs (his right was immediately amputated above the knee). “He was so extensively injured, I just looked at him and thought, 'What kind of animal would do this to somebody?'” says Lux, who didn't leave his bedside during her 12-hour shifts for the next two weeks. After Fucarile moved on from her unit, Lux remained so close with him and his family, she was invited to his wedding this April.
Where she is a year later: Lux went from training hard for 3.1 miles (a huge feat for her at the time) to gearing up for an impressive 26.2 miles. Along with five fellow nurses who also tended to survivors after the bombings, Lux is running the 2014 Boston Marathon. “I felt like I needed to do this for Marc,” she says. “The four-month training period has been tough, but it's nothing compared to what he has to do every day. I'm already thinking about what I can do for him next.”
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No. of times running the Boston Marathon: 3
Where was he during the bombings: As a chiropractor and acupuncturist from Franklin Lakes, NJ, Grogin had enough medical experience to be a first responder. But when he was only 75 yards from crossing the finish line, too many policemen yelling “Get off the road!” and instructing everyone to turn around seemed to stand in his way. “In all the chaos and confusion, I felt like I had no choice but to cooperate,” he says. Two hours later, he was able to find his uninjured wife and the rest of his running team at a local bar where they watched the news. “Seeing all the stories unfold about all the heroes, it started to sink in. Later, I learned that my brother, who lives in Los Angeles, had posted on Facebook that he had spoken to my wife, and that I was okay and probably a hero by now since it was likely I would have helped others,” Grogin recalls, choking up a bit. “I have medical training; I could have been a hero. Suddenly, it hit me, 'Why in the world did I not run forward to help?!' That has really weighed heavily on my heart.”
Where he is a year later: Living with a tremendous sense of guilt led the 59-year-old to come up with a Forrest Gump-like challenge to run from New Jersey to Massachusetts with his 50-year-old friend, John Renaldo. The plan is to raise money (they've collected about $19,000 so far) for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, which Grogin has supported for 20-plus years to help children who are gravely ill. On April 13, 2014, the two will set out to run 224 miles to the start of the Boston Marathon. They'll arrive on April 19, two days before Marathon Monday, rest up, and then head to the starting line to run the famous 26.2, bringing their total mileage to 250 (averaging approximately 32 miles a day). “I would love to have to some resolve after this. Maybe it'll be big and grand enough that I can forgive myself,” Grogin says. “But honestly, I don't think I'll ever be freed of the guilt.” If all goes well, he would like to make the run an annual fundraising event.
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Jennifer Rogers (on right, with friend Nicole Poirier)
No. of times running the Boston Marathon: 1
Where was she during the bombings: Rogers was nowhere near the marathon on April 15. The 29-year-old court advocate from Boston was working that day at an inpatient mental health facility for adolescents. Three days later, however, just after 10:30 p.m. on April 18, one of the bombing suspects—believed to be Tamerlan Tsarnaev—snuck up on Rogers' little brother, Sean Collier, who was on duty as a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer near Kendall Square in Cambridge. Tsarnaev ripped opened the 27-year-old’s car door and fatally shot him five times. Rogers, who was at work at the time, got the dreadful call with the news from her father.
Where she is a year later: “I'm running the Boston Marathon in my brother's honor,” says Rogers, who ran track and cross country in high school and has participated in several races for Collier and first responders in the military in the past year. Together with Team Collier Strong, Rogers is helping to raise $50,000 for a scholarship fund created by the MIT police department to benefit future police academy recruits.
"Training for the marathon is a big commitment, but it has been therapeutic and stress-relieving. I've met a lot of people who are running for similar causes—there's a huge support system,” she says. Rogers is looking forward to going the distance this April, even though she knows it'll be difficult. “The marathon will be a really happy day for everyone who will be putting forth their personal best, but at the same time, it'll be sad. It's going to be very emotional for sure."
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No. of times spectating the Boston Marathon: Countless
Where was she during the bombings: Last April, Sdoia was rooting for runners as usual—the 45-year-old real estate VP from Boston has been supporting friends at the finish line for as long as she can remember—when she heard a cannon-like boom up the street, followed by a nearby man yelling, “Get in the street, get in the street!” Knowing she couldn't throw her petite frame over the tall barricade blocking her and other spectators from the road where runners ran, she turned to her right—and ran straight into the second explosive, which went off, obliterating her right leg and filling her left leg with shrapnel. A college student saw her lying helplessly on the sidewalk in a puddle of her own blood and quickly turned his belt into a makeshift tourniquet on her right leg. He then picked Sdoia up and carried her over to some first emergency responders, who took her to Massachusetts General Hospital, where surgeons amputated her right leg to save her life.
Where she is a year later: Within two months of the bombings, Sdoia was back at her local gym with her personal trainer, working hard at building her core and gluteal muscles to help her carry her new 10-pound prosthetic limb. While walking more than a block tires her, she continues to make strong strides toward recovery and improve her stamina, hoping to one day return to running her usual five miles four to five times a week. “I love to eat food and have a cocktail without worrying that I'll gain weight, so for me, it's important to be active again,” she says. “Going to the gym is about getting back to normal, back to who I was before. Losing part of my leg doesn't change who I am. I still have that drive and determination to enjoy life as much as I can.” Sdoia has no plans to attend the Boston Marathon this year.
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No. of times spectating the Boston Marathon: 1
Where was she during the bombings: The 40-year-old Boston resident was turning the corner on Boylston Street, where she was headed to cheer on a friend, when the first bomb went off less than a mile away. Leigh's gut instinct wasn't to run for her life but rather to help those who were bleeding around her. She had no idea there would be a second explosion about 10 to 20 feet from her. “All I remember was feeling heat and getting thrown back,” says Leigh, who blacked out briefly and woke to people trampling her legs. When she stood up, an old man covered in blood was collapsing toward her. She caught him and walked him around the corner, sitting him down on a stoop. Soon, two people joined them with an unconscious pale man who had a bloody foot. “When they took off his sneaker, the top half of his foot came with it. I could see his bones. It was horrific,” Leigh recalls. After the injured men were put in an ambulance, Leigh said good-bye, opting not to join them. “I didn't feel hurt enough, so I didn't want to take someone's spot who really needed it.”
Where she is a year later: The extent of Leigh’s injuries revealed themselves slowly, days and months later. She was eventually diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, including significant vision loss, 50-percent deafness, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and diminished brain function (brain scans showed that more than 60 percent of her brain was damaged). A Ph.D. in international development, Leigh can no longer work; however, she says she has found some peace in her heart since the tragedy. “I see myself as a survivor every day, and that makes me really happy,” she says. Through a friend, she was connected with runners Peter and Katie, two strangers who volunteered to run this year's Boston Marathon on Leigh's behalf to raise money for all her medical needs (you can donate here). Leigh is on the fence about attending the event this April 21. “I support my runners completely and I'm so grateful, but it would take a lot to get me there.”
Photo: Getty Images