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The wounded: Sarah MacKay

Sarah McKay went to South Africa last fall for a co-op program that included work at a lion breeding facility.

Sarah McKay went to South Africa last fall for a co-op program that included work at a lion breeding facility.

For many Northeastern University students, Patriots Day and the Boston Marathon are a magnet. Sarah MacKay, a Northeastern senior, has been to a few, and was there with her roommate this year, too.

After lunch on Newbury Street, they walked to the finish line on Boylston. But it was chilly, and after standing there for 10 minutes, they thought about leaving.

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Then the first bomb went off. MacKay called for help for her friend, whose leg was bleeding badly, and stayed with her until an ambulance took her to Tufts Medical Center.

“Compared to people all around me, I was fine. I had all my limbs, I wasn’t bleeding,” says MacKay, who is from Franklin.

Then she realized that she, too, had been injured. “I had glass stuck in my pants, up and down my leg. I had big welts on the side of my right leg.” She had been hit by shrapnel and had a blown eardrum.

At Tufts Medical Center, MacKay, 21, lobbied to be put in the same room as her college roommate, Sarah Girouard, who is now recovering from leg injuries at her home in Falmouth, Maine.

MacKay’s hearing is back, and though her right ankle is black and blue and in a brace, she resumed classes. “I tire easily and am weak in my legs,” she says. “Everything’s normal, or as normal as it can be.”

A biology major, MacKay spent last fall in South Africa, taking part in a co-op program at three places: a horse rehabilitation center, a wildlife conservation project, and a lion breeding and research program. She loved the country and its animals, and hopes to go to veterinary school after graduating.

She recently went back to her volunteer work at an animal hospital and animal shelter, as well as doing bat research at Northeastern.

MacKay grew up with lots of animals: cats, dogs, a horse, and ducks. The ducklings she hatched from an incubator in high school are 6 years old now, and live in a shed and a fenced-in yard that MacKay and her parents built at their home.

As for the Marathon, MacKay is still grappling with what she calls “the emotional aspects” of it.

“You never think something like that will actually happen to you,” she says. “But it’s nothing compared to what others are dealing with. I’m very lucky.”

Bella English can be reached at
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