1 Month Since The Bombings, Signs Of Progress In Boston

May 15, 2013
Originally published on May 15, 2013 5:25 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It has been one month since two bombs rocked the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people. Families of those killed continue to mourn their loved ones; and dozens of the more than 260 people injured continue their rehabilitation, many of them amputees who are now relearning to walk.

Meantime in Boston, all but one business has reopened. But as NPR's Tovia Smith reports, the city continues a slow and painful recovery.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAFFIC)

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: It's a sign of progress that buses once again charge down Boylston Street; Boston drivers bang a left from the wrong lane; and tourists hustle by, dangling cameras and shopping bags. In some ways, Boston is exactly as it was. But at another level, not at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is it, right here. Very weird.

SMITH: On the sidewalk, at the site of the first blast.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And there, you want to zoom in.

SMITH: Sightseers snap photos as others bow their heads in silence.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's just tough to look at, you know, where it all happened.

JANET STARK: Today is big for me, you know?

SMITH: Janet Stark is back on Boylston Street for the first time since she and fellow nurse Evin Parker found themselves right here one month ago, scrambling to save lives.

EVIN PARKER: All Janet and I could really do was just hope they didn't bleed out. And, you know...

STARK: ...and we were making, cutting tablecloth into tourniquets...

PARKER: You know, I just - that's a vision that will stay with me forever.

SMITH: One month out, Stark says her recovery is still up and down.

STARK: I have to tell you, my worst week was last week.

PARKER: And I had thought, oh, I'm doing better. And then I wasn't.

SHANE O'HARA: Anyone that saw that, dealt with it - the vision of that will never disappear.

SMITH: Shane O'Hara, the manager of Marathon Sports, was just a few yards from the first blast. Today, the reminders are relentless. And he remains as haunted by what he did as by what he did not.

O'HARA: I remember walking over people and - (clears throat) you would say, OK, you're hurt but you're not hurt as bad as the other people that I saw, that were hurt. So I'm going to walk over you and hand out things to those people. And you're just - who am I to make that decision?

LIEUTENANT PAUL MCCARTHY: Hey. What's going on, my man?

O'HARA: Good. How are you?

MCCARTHY: Good to see you.

O'HARA: Good to see you.

SMITH: An old friend, Boston Fire Lt. Paul McCarthy, stops by to offer the kind of comfort few others can.

MCCARTHY: Aw, hey. I just - if you need any - you know what I mean?

O'HARA: I do.

MCCARTHY: It's - you know, we've done - we've dealt with this horrific crap before.

O'HARA: Yeah.

SMITH: McCarthy warns O'Hara, the worst may still be yet to come.

MCCARTHY: It's like a wave. And then you're going to have days and it's just going to be bad - let it out. Let her cry - I mean, and I just got over one. You just cry, you let it out, and you move on.

O'HARA: Yeah?

MCCARTHY: But it's going to come, dude. It's just...

(SOUNDBITE OF CASHIER SCANNER AND DOOR CHIME)

SMITH: Meantime, a busy store is a blessing.

O'HARA: Yeah, I probably try to - I probably should - does anyone need help?

Miss, are you all set?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Yeah.

SMITH: Customers still line up to buy Boston Strong T-shirts.

(SOUNDBITE OF CASHIER SCANNER)

O'HARA: One twenty-two even, please.

SMITH: But standing off to the side, customer Josh Grzegorzewski wonders aloud when it's time to put the T-shirts away.

JOSH GRZEGORZEWSKI: Yes, you want some way to let people know that hey, we're not going to let this stop us; you know, we won't forget. But if you dwell on it, it'll swallow you up.

SMITH: Grzegorzewski wears a blue and yellow armband as a tribute to the marathon victims. But he's decided to take it off at 26 days, which happens to be his birthday.

GRZEGORZEWSKI: I'm celebrating life. I'm going to put this aside. You know - and every wound needs to heal. I mean, if you keep picking at the scab, you're going to get a terrible scar.

SMITH: But to others here, the idea of bouncing back is still premature.

JUDITH FOX: I think the get up-get up - it's a little soon.

SMITH: Judith Fox is a trauma therapist in Stoneham, home to more than a dozen people who were seriously injured at the marathon. She's counseling some of them, but says trying to rush a recovery could backfire.

FOX: There are a lot of people that cannot do that, and feel like failures because they can't wrap their head around what's happened to them. And so I think those that want to be - you know, rah-rah cheerleaders, there are many, many people that, oh, my goodness, you know, they cannot.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Those are the shirt right there, honey. It says Boston Strong.

SMITH: As Boston Strong T-shirts continue out the door, manager Shane O'Hara is left to ponder what "strong" really means. Maybe strong is being able to show weakness. Or, O'Hara says, maybe for him, it's being able to finally reach out to some of those he tried to help a month ago.

O'HARA: I don't know if that is because I want to say, I wish I could have done more. I don't know.

SMITH: Today, O'Hara has the day off and won't be at the store. He's set an alarm on his phone to ring at 2:50, the time of the first blast. One month after the fact, he's nowhere near forgetting. But it is, perhaps, a sign of progress that he can even fathom needing a reminder.

Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston.

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