The white noise of helicopters was gone. So, too, were the Coast Guard gunboats. The bomb-sniffing dogs, gone.

The Seaport, home to an epic trial that ended Friday, went back to being just a heaving, beeping construction site Monday morning.

On the sidewalk outside the federal courthouse, the death penalty protesters were gone, replaced by a solitary figure, who walked up and down carrying a handmade sign, urging the Supreme Court to defend marriage.

Across town, across the Charles River, Bill White climbed onto a treadmill at the Spaulding Hospital’s clinic in Cambridge.

He goes there every Monday, driving in from his home in central Massachusetts, and spends an hour or two in intense therapy.


“It’s an advanced program, usually for runners and walkers,” White said.

Two years ago, Bill White was standing on Boylston Street watching the Boston Marathon with his wife and son when the first bomb went off. He was flat on his back, and when he raised his head, he could see the blood gushing from his right leg. He went from searing pain to chilling cold.

“I knew I was going to die,” he said.

He remembers thinking that he survived 13 months of war in Vietnam, and now he was going to die on the sidewalk on a beautiful spring day in the Back Bay.

Then someone appeared at his side and told him, “You’ll be OK. I’m going to get you to an ambulance.”

That someone, a Boston police officer, pulled White’s belt from his pants and tied off what was left of his right leg, saving his life.

Bill White was DOA when he got to Mass. General, and the doctors brought him back.

“Twice,” he says. “I was brought back to life twice.”

He ended up on the fifth floor of the Spaulding Hospital in Charlestown with so many of those who lost their legs at the Marathon. He was the dean of the 17 Marathon amputees. White will turn 74 soon.


“I tell people you kind of have two choices,” he says. “Give up or heal yourself. Getting healed is not an event. It’s a process.”

He loves his therapists and said they have been brutally honest with him: we can tell you what to do, but it’s up to you. Beyond his formal therapy sessions, he does something at home every day to get better. He walks around the high school track in his town.

About a month after the bombings, Bill White wheeled his way out of the Spaulding in Charlestown, just to get some fresh air. A uniformed police officer approached and Bill White assumed he had done something wrong. Maybe he wasn’t supposed to be on the sidewalk in a wheelchair.

“Hello, Mr. White,” the cop said cheerfully. “How’re you doing?”

Bill White looked at him quizzically.

“How do you know me?” he asked.

It was Bobby Butler, the Boston cop who saved his life.

It was their second chance meeting on a Boston sidewalk, and Bill White felt blessed that he was able to meet his rescuer. They’ve become good friends.

He considers the 16 others who lost their legs at the Marathon good friends. They share a remarkable bond. One of them, Roseann Sdoia, taught him how to put his prosthesis on.

“I consider myself fortunate to have met these people, to have spent so much time with some of them,” he said. “Meeting these people was a plus for me. They’re all special in their own way.”


Bill White is still working for a business consulting firm. He learned how to drive with his left leg.

And he wants to help other amputees. He’s met so many who have lost their legs to diabetes.

“I figure I’ve learned some things I can give back,” he said.

Maybe it’s because he died twice on the operating table that Bill White appreciates life more than most. He lost a leg but found some things that stand him well: grace and wisdom.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com.