Minutes after bombs detonated near the Boston Marathon’s finish line, emergency workers were rushing a bloodied, severely wounded Jeff Bauman to the hospital. Already, he was trying to help investigators find out who did it, he said today.
Bauman, a 27-year-old Costco Wholesale Corp. employee watching his girlfriend compete, was the subject of a photo that’s come to symbolize the April 15 carnage as he was rushed away in a wheelchair with his legs shredded. Yet even in an ambulance that day, he was “adamant” as he described a man with whom he’d made eye contact depositing a bag on the sidewalk just before the blasts, Bauman said in an interview with Boston-area radio station WEEI.
“We were watching the runners and everyone was having a great time, and just that one guy, you know, he didn’t look like he was having a good time,” Bauman said of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of two suspects in the attacks. “He was right next to me at that point, and he had a bag and he had his glasses and he had kind of a leather sweatshirt type of deal and you know, it’s warm out. He was just an odd guy. He just struck me odd.”
“I just looked at him and thought, what’s this guy’s problem?” Bauman said. “He was there and then he was gone. And then: boom.”
Later that day, Bauman found himself in a hospital room full of FBI investigators to whom he relayed his recollections, he said. Two days later, he’d do the same for a sketch artist whose drawing ended up looking “just like” Tamerlan, he said.
By April 19, four days after the blasts, the Tsarnaev brothers had been captured. It was the end of a manhunt for the men accused of the highest-profile act of terror in the U.S. since the 2001 assault on New York City and the Washington area, one that killed three people and wounded more than 260.
Asked what he felt upon learning that Tamerlan had died after a shootout with police, he said, “What I thought was, he’s dead. And I’m still here.”
Bauman spoke from the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, where he’s started physical and occupational therapy after having both his legs amputated below the knees. He’s received visits by New England Patriots football players and the actor Bradley Cooper, he said.
The recovery is “going fast, but I mean it hurts every day,” he said.
Bauman’s journey since the blasts may not have happened were it not for an anti-war activist named Carlos Arredondo, who had been handing out American flags at the finish line in memory of his son, who died in Iraq.
Bauman said he thought he was going to die until Arredondo scooped up his bloodied and ashen body and threw him into the wheelchair. Arredondo tried to stop the bleeding, tying tourniquets around what remained of Jeff’s legs.
“Then I was like, alright maybe I am going to make it,” Bauman said. “But before that, no way. I thought I was done.”
Arredondo and he have talked every day since Arredondo came to visit him in the hospital, Bauman said.
For now, he’ll continue a grueling regimen of physical therapy to strengthen his upper body muscles and try to regain hearing loss he sustained from the loud blasts, he said.
“You can only look forward,” he said. “I had a lot to live for before, and I have a lot to live for now.”