Boston Marathon survivor tells UWO his story

Allison Prusha

[media-credit id=125 align=”alignleft” width=”300″]JeffBauman[/media-credit]

Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman conveyed the inspirational personal story of how he overcame losing his legs to a full house in Reeve Memorial Union Tuesday evening. Before the bombing Bauman said he was living in Boston with his family, working and enjoying the music scene. That year, he said he met his wife Erin, who was training for the Boston Marathon. “She would go out and run 18 miles on a Saturday, and it would take about three hours,” Bauman said. “Then she would come back and ask what we were going to do for the day.” Before Bauman met Erin, he said he didn’t know much about the Marathon. On April 15, the day of the Boston Marathon, Bauman and his friend Sully decided to meet Erin at certain mile markers. They went downtown to Boylston Street, one of the busiest streets in Boston, according to Bauman. He said there were about 100,000 people on the street by the time they arrived. While waiting to meet Erin, Bauman said a man distracted him. “He was six foot three inches tall, a built guy wearing black and carrying a bag,” Bauman said. Bauman said he saw the guy leave the bag, and Bauman wanted to report it but didn’t get the time. “I saw this white flash, and then what sounded like a big firework went off, and I thought, ‘Why fireworks?’” Bauman said. “Why would they be going off now?” Bauman said when the smoke dissipated a little and his head became clearer, he became aware that his body was on fire as well as the surrounding damage explosion. “My legs were split like two bean pods,” Bauman said. “They were not attached to my body. And then there was just mass craziness.” When he woke up in the hospital after surgery, he said he wanted to yell out that he knew what the bomber looked like. He was unable to speak because he had a chest tube and had to write on a notepad instead. He jotted down all of the details on the notepad. As soon as he did that, five FBI agents and two state officers who were in his room ran out with the new information. The phrase “Boston Strong” began to circulate as a reaction to the bombing. Bauman said the phrase Boston Strong means resiliency within a community. “It means coming back stronger both as a person and as a community,” Bauman said. “There may be times where it seems [the Boston community is] at each other’s throats, but we also take care of each other.” Bauman said soon after he was released from the hospital, he got an offer from the Boston Bruins hockey team to wave the Boston Strong flag before the start of the game. He said he initially did not want to participate, but his mother encouraged him to do it. “She said, ‘Show them. Show them that they didn’t win,’” Bauman said. Bauman said soon after this his life began to change when in June, he was fitted for prosthetics and began rehab. He said the first time he was able to stand on his own was another huge moment for him. “I thought, ‘I’m outta my chair. I can see people eye-to-eye, and I could hug and kiss Erin without sitting in my wheelchair,’” Bauman said. Bauman said he was later approached by Brett Witter to write his story. “Of course I thought about not doing [the book],” Bauman said. “At that point I was just concerned about getting better. I was focused on my rehab.” Encouraged by Witter and his parents, he began to write his story, a cathartic seven-month process. Bauman and Erin welcomed a baby girl, Nora, in July 2014. He said through the birth of his daughter, he realized the reason he was still alive. “Holding my daughter [while] standing up was one of my goals,” Bauman said. “And right now, being a good father and a good husband are my goals.” Bauman said through his recovery he learned that he was a lot tougher than he thought he was. “If someone were to come up and tell me that I was going to go to a marathon and have my legs blown off and live to tell my story and inspire others, I would have told them they were crazy,” Bauman said. Oshkosh student Olivia Levezow said she was moved by the story and it was an honor to meet Bauman. “He helped our nation not only when he helped identify the two guys that did that terrible thing, but also now by inspiring us through his story of taking something tragic and growing stronger from it,” Levezow said.