More than two months have passed since twin blasts sent shrapnel, ball bearings and nails tearing through the packed crowd at the Boston Marathon’s finish line, killing three and injuring 264.
On June 3, the last patient was discharged from the hospital, but hospital chaplains say their recovery is just beginning and that each individual’s path back to health will be different.
Walking with faith
On April 15, Brittany Loring, a Catholic and student at Boston College, was celebrating her 29th birthday and cheering on friends who were running the race. She said that when she heard the explosion, she knew it was a bomb. Initially knocked to the ground, she stood up and started to run away.
“I knew I needed to get out of there,” she said. She first realized that she had been injured when she caught sight of her reflection in a storefront window. Her head was wounded and bleeding. Then, she glanced down at her legs and started to panic.
At Boston Medical Center, doctors performed four surgeries on one leg and one on the other to close those wounds. She is still in physical therapy. “Every week I get better,” she told Our Sunday Visitor.
BC staff members were supportive of Loring’s recovery, exemplifying the strong presence of faith and ethics that she said permeates the campus. And on May 20, Loring was able to walk with her graduating class.
Loring, who grew up in Ayer, Mass., credited her family, her friends and her “strong faith” with helping her get through these difficult months.
“I definitely turned to my faith,” she said. “The only way I could calm myself was to pray. You have to put yourself in God’s hands.”
Loring said she understands that she was “in the wrong place at the wrong time” and has learned to appreciate the little things in life. “I think it’s made me focus more on the flowers this time of year.”
Donations toward Loring’s recovery can be made at www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/f582/recoveryforbrittany.
Finding strength in humor
For the Richard family, active at St. Ann Parish in Dorchester, a Boston neighborhood, recovery from the bombing has been long and difficult. Bill and Denise suffered injuries; their eldest child was unharmed, but 7-year-old Jane lost part of a leg and 8-year-old Martin was killed, the youngest of the three people killed that day.
A private funeral Mass for Martin was celebrated April 23. On June 9, which would have been the boy’s ninth birthday, the family celebrated his life at their parish’s family Mass.
Larry Marchese, a close friend who has known the Richards for 25 years, acted as the family’s spokesman, addressing reporters after the Mass. He said that before the Mass, Bill Richard addressed those gathered and reflected on Martin, an emotional boy who spoke his mind. Like most children, he sometimes exasperated his parents but knew how to crack a joke and flash a disarming smile at just the right moment.
Marchese said the family continues to find strength in humor.
He added that the family waited to have the memorial Mass because Jane’s recovery has been slow. Currently using a wheelchair, she is learning to regain balance and rebuild physical strength. She was released from Boston Children’s Hospital on May 23, after 12 surgeries. In a statement, her parents said the girl’s determination to get better has inspired the family.
Marchese called the family’s faith “essential” to their recovery and praised the support of their parish community.
“This is a part of Boston that is rooted in the Church,” he told reporters.
The family’s website for updates is richardfamilyboston.tumblr.com/.
Relying on their faith
Alvaro and Martha Galvis, Catholics originally from Colombia, have watched the Boston Marathon near the finish line for more than 40 years. The first year, 1971, they watched fellow countryman Álvaro Mejía win the race.
The couple continued to attend annually even after moving to New Hampshire, and they often brought their three children with them. Now grown, their two daughters and one son immediately were concerned when they heard about the bombing. The couple had posted a photo of themselves near the finish line on Facebook just an hour before the attack.
At a June 8 fundraiser, son Leonardo Galvis spoke about his parents’ injuries and recovery. They shared a hospital room before Alvaro was released, just 10 days after the bombing. He had shrapnel in his leg that required two surgeries. More recently, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition for which symptoms must be present for at least a month. He sees a psychiatrist each week.
Martha’s physical wounds are much more serious. Severe nerve damage to her leg will likely mean it will be a year before she is able to walk on her own again. In addition, doctors do not expect her to regain full use of one of her hands.
Leonardo Galvis said his parents have relied heavily on their faith during this difficult time. He called his mother a “very religious woman” who has received holy Communion every day since she was hospitalized. Like many of the severely injured, she was released to Spaulding Rehabilitation Center and will head back to the hospital for another surgery.
The couple is accepting donations to offset medical expenses at www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/ts82/galvisfund.
Chaos leads some to faith
Jesuit Father George Winchester, Catholic chaplain at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for 21 years, said that he found chaos when he came to the hospital on April 15. He immediately began ministering to patients, sometimes administering the sacrament of anointing of the sick.
He said that a tragedy like the marathon bombing “brings people up short,” and they begin to assess their spiritual resources. For some patients, their experience strengthened their faith, and for others their faith is what brought them through.
“I saw [a Catholic patient] who was quite religious and was very strengthened by her faith,” he said.
Christine M. Williams writes from Massachusetts.