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As Warren’s campaign ramps up on home turf, supporters remember a personal touch

Patrick Downes talks to the crowd during a canvasing event for presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren in Cambridge Sunday. Downes is a survivor of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and Warren helped secure medical care for Downes and his wife, Jessica Kensky, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and they have stayed in touch since.
Patrick Downes talks to the crowd during a canvasing event for presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren in Cambridge Sunday. Downes is a survivor of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and Warren helped secure medical care for Downes and his wife, Jessica Kensky, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and they have stayed in touch since.Blake Nissen/The Boston Globe

When Patrick Downes hears Elizabeth Warren speak, he recalls the day when she visited him in the hospital, three days after he lost a leg in the Boston Marathon bombing nearly seven years ago.

And as Downes spoke at an event kicking off canvasing in Warren’s hometown of Cambridge Sunday afternoon, he recounted how even her sloganeering reminds him of how the senator has looked out for him.

“Every time I hear her say she’s in it for the fight — we know she loves that word 'fight’ — I actually hear ‘love.’"

A day after Warren placed fourth in the Nevada caucuses, Downes joined Cambridge city councilor and former Mayor Marc McGovern to kick off a canvassing event in Cambridge, where Warren lives with her husband, Bruce Mann, and golden retriever, Bailey. The event was one of dozens held by the Warren campaign over the weekend to highlight early voting in Massachusetts, which starts on Monday.

Other canvassing events were held Sunday in Northampton, Lawrence, and Pittsfield, according to the Warren campaign.

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Over 50 people gathered in Cronin Park near Central Square as Downes, who grew up in and lives in Cambridge, and McGovern spoke of Warren as a neighbor who should be president.

“This is her house, this is her turf, and we are her people," McGovern said to the gathering.

“You’ve probably seen her at Paddy’s having a drink with the locals, you’ve probably seen her at Fresh Pond with Bailey — and Bunker, my dog, who are buddies — or if you’ve had kids you’ve probably knocked on her door at Halloween and she gives out great Halloween candy.”

“She is one of us and that’s why it is so important that Cambridge turns out in huge numbers," he said.

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Downes, 36, told the crowd of when Warren visited him and his future wife Jessica Kensky in the hospital days after a bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon that killed 3 people and injured more than 200. The couple each lost legs in the blasts.

Downes and Kensky, who also campaigned for Warren in New Hampshire, inspired a Warren-sponsored bill to give other terrorism survivors with traumatic injuries access to treatment at military health care facilities.

But the Downes family’s connection with Warren, who said they also supported in her first run for senate in 2012, has continued, according to Downes and his parents.

A year after the bombing, Deborah Downes sat at the marathon finish line, weeping as she and her husband waited for their son to finish the race on a hand cycle.

“We sat in the stands, we were by ourselves — no one knew who we were — and she came bounding up the steps...sat down between us and held my hand. I remember her holding my hand as I really cried,” Deborah Downes, 67, said in an interview as volunteers set off to knock on doors. “I’ll never forget that.”

It was the comfort she remembered the year before when Warren “just reached out like a mother to a mother,” she said.

“We were still in shock in terms in terms of understanding what had happened and having the senator there just seemed like such a gift and it just felt like you weren’t going to be alone.”

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And years later, upset at President Donald Trump’s reported comments about immigrants, Deborah Downes dialed a number in her phone the senator had given her years earlier, thinking she could vent to Warren’s office staff.

Longtime Warren aide Roger Lau, who answered, passed the phone to the senator without hesitation. Warren, touring hurricane damage in Puerto Rico at the time, asked a question she had many times. “How are Patrick and Jess?”

“She watched them in the way you might have a really thoughtful aunt just looking out for you," Deborah Downes said. "She played that role in our life and we’ll never forget it.”

The family is planning to continue volunteering for the Warren campaign, including working phones Monday.

“This is not a passing thing for us," said Brian Downes, 71. "This is a commitment to return the favor in terms of what she did for our immediate family and fully appreciative of the fact that she’ll do that for the country.”