CONCORD -- IT TOOK cajoling from friends and family for New Hampshire’s Jeff Bauman to decide to write about surviving the Boston Marathon bombing and his recovery.
“I thought, ‘no, I’m so busy,’” with physical therapy and getting his life back together after losing both legs in last year’s terrorist attack, Bauman said Thursday at a signing session for his book, “Stronger,” at the Concord Public Library.
“But my family talked me into this. It was kind of cool to get my story down on paper. I’m really proud of it,” he said of his memoir, which was co-written with Bret Witter.
Bauman, whose father and stepmother live in Concord, told the standing-room-only audience in the library’s basement auditorium that he vividly remembers being bumped by one of the alleged terrorists, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in the days after the bombing while trying to escape police in Watertown, Mass.
He also remembers the shock of lying on a sidewalk near the marathon’s finish line minutes later, trying to keep his left leg attached. His right was gone.
“I was conscious through the whole thing,” he said. “I didn’t have any pain. I was just in a weird place.”
Moments later, as he was being rushed away in a wheelchair, he and cowboy-hat-wearing Carlos Arredondo, along with Devin Wang and Paul Mitchell, were captured in an iconic photo by Associated Press photographer Charles Krupa. In a piece Bauman wrote for the Guardian, Bauman said the photograph, which he said he’s only looked at once, gets misinterpreted as a photo of the bombing.
“It doesn’t show the explosion, and it doesn’t show me being injured. It is a photograph of the rescue,” he wrote. “The story the Wheelchair Photo tells is this: two losers set off bombs, but hundreds of people risked their lives to rush to our aid.”
He said he and Arredondo, who picked Bauman up off the ground and put him in that wheelchair, have become close friends and he recently took a two-week trip to Costa Rica with Arredondo to meet his lifesaver’s family.
“Carlos is the type of guy who just seems to know everybody in the world,” Bauman said.
When he woke up after surgery to save his life, he immediately told police that he saw Tsarnaev and gave them a description that helped investigators catch him and his brother and alleged co-conspirator, Dzhokhar, who lived through a firefight with police and is facing a federal trial for his alleged role in the bombing.
“I thought it was strange because he was trying to get through this crowd. He bumped into me and I looked right at him,” he said. “I didn’t say anything to him but I was like, ‘where are you going to go? There’s no room to go anywhere.’”Bauman said he has since had to get used to walking again with prosthetics that cost $100,000 each — he said he went from being 5 feet, 11 inches tall to 5 feet, 7 inches tall — and with his celebrity status, which has included a ceremonial first pitch at a Red Sox game and being invited to sit with First Lady Michelle Obama during the State of the Union Address.“Every time I go into a restaurant, I end up with five beers in front of me,” he said to laughter. “Everyone wants to buy me drinks.”
He said his goals include being able to drive again, going on hikes to the peaks in Franconia State Park and raising his child, who will be born soon.
“I just want to live my life to the fullest and going through that,” he said.