News

Bombing survivors return to the marathon

By Kate Daly

Special to the Almanac

A year after being injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, Amanda North of Woodside got to watch her daughter, Lili Pike, cross the finish line at the marathon on April 21, and they celebrated together.

On April 15, 2013, Lili was about four hours into her Boston Marathon run and near the finish line when the first bomb went off, knocking her off her feet. She was not hurt, but her mother, who was watching the race and was also knocked to the ground, received third-degree burns, a large gash on her leg and a ruptured eardrum.

In addition, Ms. North says, she was "surrounded by some of the worse casualties." One spectator was killed and another ended up as a double amputee. Erika Brannock, a preschool teacher from the Baltimore area who lost a leg, gives Ms. North credit for helping save her life.

Now, a year later, Ms. North says her hearing is restored, and the burns and gash on her leg have healed.

"I was very, very fortunate," she says, and now she takes "each day as a gift."

On April 15 this year, Ms. North attended the tribute held at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center to commemorate the three people who were killed and the more than 260 injured in the bombings.

Vice President "Joe Biden gave a very moving talk on resilience, hope and fortitude ... and you didn't hear one survivor talk without talking about moving forward. You felt uplifted," Ms. North says.

She learned of one family, for example, that has dealt with its loss by starting a foundation to promote stem cell research for patients with injuries.

After the ceremony, Ms. North and Ms. Brannock went out in the rain to cross the finish line. Ms. Brannock has a prosthetic leg and used a walker to cross first with her mother. Ms. North was a step behind, linking arms with her son, Logan Pike, and Lili. "That was very emotional; that brought closure," Ms. North says.

Later, Ms. North visited the hospital where she was treated in Dorchester. Ms. Brannock also returned to the hospital where she had spent 50 days recovering from her wounds. Ms. North describes the visit as "really joyous."

At this year's marathon on April 21, the sun was shining, thousands more people than usual turned out to watch the race, and police presence was high. Ms. North saw many helicopters flying over and barricades lining the course. "Maybe people were anxious in their hearts, but they didn't show it," she says.

Ms. North watched the race with friends from Woodside, Abby and Henry Wilder, who were there to see their daughter, Mary, run. She finished, and so did Lili's running partner.

Ms. North started to get concerned when there was no sign of Lili, who had run a lot in high school, but hadn't spent a lot of time continuing her training at Harvard. Lili injured her knee before the race, yet was determined to participate no matter what.

Turns out she spent the last 10 miles "hobbling and walking," but when she crossed the finish line after about five hours, Ms. North says, "My heart swelled with pride."

Now that Ms. North is back in town, she is working on Artisans Connect, an e-commerce business she runs out of her home. Launched in April, the website sells home decorating accessories made by artisans in developing countries around the world.

Ms. North says the bombing "changed my life," leading her to quit her high-tech marketing job and start up a social venture that's more in keeping with the political, economic, and international focus she had back in college during the 1970s.

She likes the idea that she can "support artisans and keep them in their traditional livelihood," so they have an opportunity to do something besides working in call centers or as tour operators.

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