Today I’m on an airplane, going home. Leaving is the epitome of bitter-sweet. Leaving my family is among the hardest things I’ve ever done, but the routine of daily life will help both my husband and I feel slightly normal again, hopefully. Since I’m writing this on a plane, I can’t remember where I left off, but I have time to write so that’s what I’m going to do. I know I am already forgetting things and looking back over the last ten days I really can’t tell you everything I’ve done, but I want to try to remember.
I was in the ambulance. People have been asking about thanking those first responders and men and women in the ambulance, but I don’t know that I would recognize any of them, even though at the time I clearly saw their faces. I jumped in the front seat, hanging onto my sister’s purse. I began digging through it, phone, license, anything I knew they would need for identification. I also had no idea who my new sisters parents were. Assuming they had heard, or would hear soon, they would worry and I had no clue how to contact them. I think I had met her only two maybe three times before this little “family vacation”. Who doesn’t keep their license in their purse? Obviously her, I also couldn’t find a phone. Oh well, what were my options? I asked where we were going, the drive told me the name of the hospital. I got on my phone and texted all my family.
“I am with my sister, I am ok, she is still alive, this is the hospital we are going to.”
The EMT from the back called up “Can you call ahead and let them know we have an amputee?”
Oh God, I though, please don’t let it be my sister!
“Is the amputee my sister?” I asked the driver,
“I’m afraid so” he said very solemnly.
Wow, how do you tell someone they lost their leg? Would I have to be the one when she woke up to tell her? People live without legs, I had to remind myself. I had seen people, that very day, only a few hours before, running the Boston marathon with prosthetics. She won’t die I tried to remind myself…I was trying to stay as calm as possible.
My husband is snoring next to me. It brings me back to now, the present, on a plane, going home. How can I just go walk down the street and pretend that I haven’t seen, felt or heard the horrific things I have? How do you just go on like you aren’t dying to hear a word from your family about how each person is doing? I know I can’t protect everyone but I so badly want to stick my family in a bubble and stay there, so no one else can get hurt, no one else will have to suffer. I know that’s not real, not on this earth at least.
We arrived at the hospital emergency room, they took the first stretcher off. My sister and I can’t decide if it was a man or a woman (not that we can’t decide, she thinks it was a man, I’m pretty sure it was a woman but it doesn’t matter much at this point). The person had no legs, they had both been completely blown off, that or they were leg less before, but I doubt it. I pray for that person, whoever it was, God knows but I also thanked God in that moment because I knew, the amputee they were calling in for, was not for my sister. I rushed in with the workers, again holding my sisters stretcher until they said, we are going to surgery you can not come. I knew what battles to fight and this was not one. I stopped and I watched them carry her down a hall and the door closed. I was almost completely alone. I slowly turned around to see three or four nurses staring at me. Beyond them was the ER waiting room.
“Are you alright sweetie?” A nurse asked.
“Yeah, I think so.” Define alright, I wanted to ask.
“Why don’t you come over here and sit down.”
She got me a wheel chair and they made me sit. They put me next to a young man, probably in his 20′s who just stared at me. He was by himself, he had a name tag on, maybe because he was waiting to go into the ER but he didn’t have a huge emergency. There was a family, well a mom with three kids in the room as well. One of her little girls couldn’t stop looking at me. I had to go to the bathroom really bad. I looked at the guy next to me,
“Do you think they will yell at me if I get out of my wheel chair?” I smiled, it was my lame attempt at a joke. No response. Dude, come on, I thought, I don’t look that bad. I got up and walked into the bathroom. I did look that bad. My hair was a mess, more details on that later, I had blood on my arms, and my pants and shoes were soaked. The pants it didn’t look as bad because they were dark jeans, but my bright teal and pink shoes? Yuck. I walked back out and sat in my wheel chair. The guy had moved across the waiting room, guess I scared him away. The little girl was still staring. The tv was on and the news was playing I started wheeling toward it to watch the tv. The little girl moved to let me by.
“Want to race?” She got a little smile, “come on!” I challenged her, she started walking and I started wheeling faster, then she started running, I got stuck in the rows of seats. She smiled really big and I admitted my defeat. She stopped staring at me after that. As I watched the tv, a nurse came up to talk to me. She put a thing around my neck, a big white card with different colors, I was glad to see one of the colors was for deceased, she didn’t check that color. I was green, which meant ok I guess. She asked if I had any cuts, I said I didn’t know. She told me they were going to cut my pants off.
Really? Could this day get any worse? Now not only do I not know where my parents are, my siblings are all in the hospital, but I also have to walk around without any pants on? I guess we could all be dead so sure, take my pants lady. The cut was straight down the middle, and she let me keep them on, that was nice of her right? A social worker came to talk to me. She left. A pastoral staff came to talk to me. She left. A different social worker came to talk to me. I already talked to another lady I said, then the first social worker came back. It was awkward, it was like they had this secret conversation about who was going to be my social worker, the first one won out, she gave a crazy stare to the second and after a minute of awkward silence, the second one left. A nurse came out and gave me my sisters phone. My phone had almost died by this point so I was relieved to be able to text. I put some phone numbers into her phone before mine died. Then I got a text from a random number, “this is mom. Using someone’s phone. Text me.” This was the first time I almost cried. My mom was safe, not in an ambulance or hospital, she had been able to use someone else’s phone! Thank you Jesus! I quick put the strangers number into my sisters phone and texted back. My next plan of attack was to get on Facebook, my phone and my sisters phones were getting texts like crazy. I wrote a quick update. “My husband and I are both ok, the rest of the family is being treated. We still have not found my dad, please pray.”
I began to think. Where and when had my dad left our group? Where was he standing when the explosion happened? I think I heard there were two explosions, was he near the second? He hadn’t been on the ground with any Of the other people I saw laying near us…why wasn’t he answering his phone? Phone calls officially weren’t going through, texts were now taking a while to send.
Side note, when National Tragedy strikes, the best thing to do is text and call all the people you know there so that the phone lines get jammed.
The nurse came and wheeled me in the back. I protested that I was fine and really didn’t want to spend the money on what I was sure would be a five minute ER visit, she denied my request.
They gave me a gown and told me to change. I sat on the table waiting, phone in hand. A nurse came in and checked me to make sure I had no cuts. I had nothing. NOTHING. I still couldn’t hear out my left ear but after seeing missing legs, I didn’t want to complain about that. The nurse asked who blood was on my legs, I laughed. “Are you serious?” I asked. I realized she was. “I have no idea, but it doesn’t seem to be mine.”
She brought in a towel and soap and washed my legs, we joked about a massage while she was at it, ” If there were massages here, I might like coming into work more!” I liked having a small something to smile at. The doctor came in and looked in my ear, perforated ear drum, it would heal in a week. The nice nurse gave me a full change of clothes and I got dressed and walked out. I now had a lovely pair of x-large scrub pants, an x-small shirt, and two pairs of hospital socks to replace my bloody sneakers.
One conversation between the nurse and me.
“Ma’am, you can’t be on your cell phone back here” the nurse said sternly, so I put my phone away. She left. I took my phone out, honestly I forgot she had even said that, I was worried about other things. She came back in. “Ma’am, did you get permission to be on your phone?” I shook my head no and started to put it away.
“Who are you looking for?”
Looking around, she whispered, “Screw it honey, you get your phone out and you find your father!”
I tried calling again, lines were still jammed. I sent him another text.
I walked out of the ER, after the kind financial lady came and tried to get all my insurance information, of which I had none. They sent me outside, around the front of the building into the general waiting room. It was chaos. A woman was crying, another man was frantically trying to find someone. I took a seat and tried to think.
I had sent and received a few texts from my mom so I knew she was on her way. My social worker was on the lookout for the rest of my family. I knew where my husband was, my Aunt, my “nephew” or BGS, my one sister, and my mom; Five of nine accounted for, more than half. I sat. I don’t remember much. I watched people but I can’t recall what any of them were doing or saying, or what any of them looked like except two ladies, from the whole day. The two ladies were screaming, crying, sobbing. Sorry doesn’t begin to describe how I felt for them.
I don’t know what time I got in, I don’t know what time I left. I don’t remember how many times the social worker came to talk to me, or how many times the pastoral staff came to see if I needed a hug. I do remember seeing my mom walk in and the security guard starting to ask her questions. I stood up, waved, and yelled, “Mom!” She didn’t see me, I started walking toward her, ”Mom!” Still nothing. I know I can’t hear that well, maybe I’m not yelling as loud as I think I am,” MOM!” I screamed running toward her. She heard me that time. The security guard let her in and we ran into each other arms and began crying. I’m so glad your ok, I love you, I’m so sorry this happened, we blurted out a lot of different things all at once. I’ve never been more glad in my entire life to hug my mom. Moms hugs are special, but in that moment, my mothers hug was healing, life bringing, protecting.
I met John, the man who got off his phone to let her use it in Starbucks. The man who walked with her to a police officer who made a stranger stop his car and said “bring this lady to the hospital”. The man who got in the strangers car so she didn’t have to go alone and came into the hospital to make sure she found me. John. Another angel.
Sitting down, we started talking, I told her where we were when everything happened, everything I knew about who was where. The pastoral staff came and interrupted us, trying to hug us, to see if we wanted to talk. I guess I did cause a bit of a scene. She left, then the social worker came over. She was glad to cross one more person off her list of MIA.
“My husband!” My mom reminded her, “we still haven’t found my husband!” Now it was my turn to comfort my mother. We sat and cried, and talked for who knows how long, just waiting to hear something, from someone. I got a text. My dad was at the hospital with my husband. This times, tears of relief and joy filled our eyes. Six of nine.