Nearly two years after a shootout between police and the Boston Marathon bombers left Richard Donohue critically wounded, the MBTA Transit Police Department officer returned to Watertown to show his gratitude to the American Red Cross and the donors who helped keep him alive.
The worst part of Donohue’s first-ever blood donation Saturday wasn’t the needle, he said, but the iodine swab.
“It tickles. I can’t handle it,” he said with a chuckle after donation team supervisor Kaitlynne Trainor applied the disinfectant.
His good humor was perhaps another sign of his healing and the healing of a community, as area residents joined Donohue and Marathon bombings survivor Heather Abbott at Watertown High School to support the Red Cross and Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, where Donohue was revived after he was shot.
“I think it brought a lot of the community closer together,” said Captain Raymond Dupuis, commander of field operations for the Watertown police. “We used to always say nothing happens in Watertown. We can’t say that anymore.”
The quiet, 4-square-mile community became the focus of world attention just after midnight on April 19, 2013, as police pursued Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev into Watertown, leading to a confrontation on Laurel Street that left Tamerlan Tsarnaev dead and Donohue nearly bleeding to death.
Four days earlier, the brothers had detonated two bombs near the Marathon’s finish line, killing three and injuring more than 260.
Resident Sheri Rosenberg said the community’s notoriety from the shootout lingers.
“Watertown used to be our sleepy little town that nobody heard of, and now no matter where you go in the country, you mention Watertown, Mass., and everybody knows where that is now, unfortunately,” she said.
Rosenberg said she gives blood at least once a year, participating for the past decade at the annual Sept. 11 drive hosted by the Boston Red Sox, where she is manager of alumni and player relations.
Rosenberg recalled the anxiety she felt two years ago as police scoured the area for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after he fled the scene of the shootout, and then-Governor Deval Patrick ordered Greater Boston residents to shelter in place.
“I remember going down to the basement to do laundry at one point and thinking, that’s probably not the brightest move,” Rosenberg said.
Dupuis, who was not part of the shootout but who was present when Tsarnaev was found hiding in a backyard boat, also gave blood Saturday.
“If I can help save somebody else’s life, or help people, that’s the business I’m in,” he said.
A lifelong Watertown resident, Dupuis said he hoped there would be some closure for the community after a jury found Tsarnaev guilty for the bombings and for the killing of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier.
Abbott, a Marathon spectator who lost her left leg in the attack, said she is glad the trial is over, and looks forward to this year’s race on April 20, and the launch of the Heather Abbott Foundation, which will provide prosthetic devices for trauma victims.
Abbott said she has donated blood so many times she has lost count, but pegged the figure as at least 20. Her recovery is proceeding, she said, and she is relieved that most of the long winter’s snow has melted and she can wear high heels again.
“I’m doing pretty well,” said Abbott. “It’s been a fast two years. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.“
Donohue said he was glad to support the Red Cross, the hospital, and the community of Watertown.
“I finally think it’s come full circle, from being in such great need for a blood donation to be able to give back and give to somebody else who might have a need,” he said. “It means so much to me.”