Marathon victims’ families, survivors gather in Boston
Feel the need to cheer on runners, be at the finish line
Jun Lu and Ling Meng felt they had to make the 7,000-mile trek from their home in China.
After losing their only child, Lingzi Lu, at last year’s Boston Marathon, they wanted to be at the race, cheering on runners.
“We cherish everything that Lingzi was a part of,” Jun Lu said through an interpreter. “Even though last year’s Marathon [was tragic], we want to be there to witness something good come out of it.”
Lu and Meng will be among the many family members of victims coming to Boston this week for official remembrances that are stirring up hope, but also pain.
Survivors, too, will make the trip for informal reunions with the EMTs and police officers who stanched their bleeding and the doctors and nurses who helped them heal.
On Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of the bombings, Vice President Joe Biden will lead a ceremony at the Hynes Convention Center, followed by a flag-raising and a moment of silence at the finish line.
“The last year has been very painful,” said Lu, whose daughter, a 23-year-old graduate student at Boston University, is buried at Forest Hills Cemetery. “But fortunately, we’ve received so much love from people all over the world. We’re humbled.”
John Odom, 66, said he felt he had to come to Boston from his home in California this week, to thank the doctors and nurses who saved his life and to stand once again at the finish line. “We all dwell on what happened,” said Odom, who had both legs pierced by shrapnel. “But I would rather look forward to where we’re going.”
Odom, who was at the finish line to watch his daughter race, lost so much blood his heart stopped beating twice. “I didn’t think I was going to make it when I was lying on the streets there in Boston,” he said.
When he was brought to Boston Medical Center, Odom was “technically dead,” said his vascular surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Kalish, who helped stop the bleeding.
Odom was on life support for 10 days, unconscious and in critical condition for 2½ weeks.
“In the beginning, I would say to them every day, ‘Just tell me he’s going to make it,’ ” Odom’s wife, Karen, said at a press conference Monday at Boston Medical.
“And they couldn’t do that. They didn’t know that. And then when they did know he was going to make it, they didn’t know what making it was going to look like. They didn’t know if he had brain damage.”
Odom said he remembers nothing until he awoke one night, in a dark room at the hospital.
He could not move, he said, but could hear noises. “I didn’t know where I was,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was alive.”
Over the next several weeks, he underwent 11 surgeries. Doctors were not sure he would walk again.
But nearly two months after the bombings, three therapists at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital helped him grab hold of parallel bars.
He started crying. He was learning to walk again.
He remained at Spaulding until September, when he and his wife finally returned to California, the last of the bombing victims to go home.
Life is different now, he said, “our new normal.”
He and Karen have danced together again. He is back on the golf course. But he has not been able to run yet and is adjusting, he said, to life with a disability.
As this year’s Marathon drew near, he was faced with the wrenching question of whether to return to the place where he nearly lost his life. Odom said he felt it was important to come back.
“I think one of the things I have learned since then — and I’m going to be very honest with you — is there are more good people in this world than bad people,” he said. “And there’s more love and prayers that I received when I was here, and I think I’ve learned now that, going forward, you can’t let things like this get in your way and stop you from going forward and living life.”
On Monday, he and Karen Odom were at Boston Medical for a flag-raising ceremony attended by hundreds of cheering hospital staff members. “It’s a miracle that I’m here and I’m so thankful to this man right here,” Odom said, putting an arm around Kalish after the ceremony.
“He’s part of our family now,” Odom said, laughing. “We adopted him.”
Lingzi Lu’s family recently launched a foundation in her name to provide scholarships and other charities that honor her memory. “Lingzi was very intelligent and very driven,” her father said. “She was full of life and compassion.”
That sentiment was echoed on Monday night by friends of Lingzi who spoke during a memorial service for her at Marsh Chapel on the BU campus.
Her close friend and former roommate, Li Jing, said they bonded “like long-lost sisters” after meeting two years ago.
“Lingzi, we miss you so much,” said Jing, a BU graduate student who fought back tears during her remarks. “God loves you, so do we, and love never fails.”
The service included a slideshow with photos of a smiling Lingzi, as well as a three-
minute moment of silence to remember the victims.
Yujue Wang, a BU undergraduate who is part of a group running this year’s Marathon in Lu’s honor, remembered her during the memorial as “an inspirational scholar, a compassionate friend.”
“This year,” Wang said, “we’re taking back the finish line for Lingzi.”