Jarrod Clowery has a long list of worries, but he doesn’t include any concerns for himself on it.
The 35-year-old survivor of the Boston Marathon bombings, still facing at least two surgeries on legs riddled with burns and shrapnel wounds, is on a mission to raise money for members of his close-knit group of friends from Stoneham, several of whom lost limbs or were otherwise injured in the bombings.
“I feel obligated to give back,” he said. “If I just take the donations and slink back into my life and try to get ‘normal,’ I’m not doing all those people who helped me justice. I need to show all the people who supported me, all the good people of world, that they didn’t waste their time keeping me around.”
Clowery, who has maintained a near-constant vigil at the side of his friends, said the group of Stoneham buddies are so close that no thanks have been exchanged.
“We don’t talk about it. ... We don’t have to thank each other, we’ve moved past that,” he said.
Clowery credits the group for giving him the will to power through his recovery.
“I wouldn’t be able to be optimistic without them,” he said. “I was having a real hard time at beginning, but my friends showed me how to be.”
Saturday morning, Clowery attended the OneRun, in which runners jogged the final mile of the Boston Marathon from Kenmore Square to Boylston Street. Because of his injuries, Clowery walked only the final blocks, from the Forum restaurant where he was injured to the finish line.
“I wish I could have given every single one of those runners [Saturday] a medal,” Clowery said. “I was just awestruck. I couldn’t believe all these people came. I tried to make eye contact with as many people as I could. All I could see was good intentions... I got chills up my spine. It was probably one of the better moments of my life.”
Clowery says the news media has devoted too much coverage to the tragic aspects of the bombings. He prefers to focus on people who helped out but did not seek credit—or as he calls them, “real heroes.”
“What happened was a despicable act, but it’s too much ‘bad guys’ in the media,” he said. “On TV, that bomb goes off every night.
“The real heroes need to step up and take away the negative coverage. I can’t tell you how many people just washed off the blood and went home... In reality, there is way more good than bad.”
First among Clowery’s real heroes are the doctors, nurses, and other staff at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
“They showed me and my friends a level of care and trust you normally only get from your mother,” he said.
But Clowery remains worried about the mental health of first responders, bystanders, and runners who saw horrific things at the Marathon.
“My wounds are healing, but mentally it’s tough,” he said. “I only got a glimpse of aftermath for 10 seconds. Those people that stayed until the last person was in an ambulance, are their injuries any less bad than mine?”
In his own mental recovery, Clowery has worked to accept the drastic changes in his life.
“I’ve come to grips with the fact that things aren’t normal,” he said. “I can’t change what happened in that one second. And what’s happened after that horrible one second is an endless amount of good and positive seconds.”
He said he will probably attend next year’s marathon, but has not made a firm commitment.
Clowery offered this final advice: “Don’t get jaded—and tell your family you love ‘em every day. I mean it.”