A new perspective
When the bomb exploded just a few feet away on April 15, the Norden brothers, Jarrod Clowery, James Costello and Marc Fucarile were gathered with other friends outside Forum, a bar near the marathon’s finish line. They were awaiting the arrival of another childhood buddy, firefighter Mike Jefferson, who was finishing the race.
The two bombs, made from pressure cookers filled with gunpowder, nails, pellets and other bits of metal, killed three people. Authorities say a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer was killed later by the two alleged terrorists, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in a subsequent shootout with police. His brother was indicted in connection with the violence, including the four deaths.
Upon hearing the first explosion, 100 yards away, Clowery began to vault the spectator barricade onto Boylston Street, where he believed he and his friends would be safer. His arms and legs were peppered with shrapnel and debris from the second bomb, but he escaped with all his limbs.
Clowery had tried for years to earn a living, first playing pool professionally, then doing residential carpentry, sometimes with the Nordens. He never grossed more than $22,000, on the books, playing pool and often had no place of his own. Sometimes he slept on J.P. Norden’s couch.
As dreams go, he admits, his were modest: Save enough money to open a pool hall and help coach his son’s Pop Warner football team, a way of staying close to the youngster, born 12 years ago after a short relationship.
Clowery’s early days as an inpatient were the darkest; besides his physical injuries, he was deeply depressed and heavily medicated.
Then letters began arriving from all over the world, many of them from schoolchildren. “They saved my ass,” he says. “I could’ve gone down a dark path.”
His perspective began to change. He spoke to the media about first responders who, he has said since the bombing, have not received enough credit for the lives they saved. Then he decided to create an anti-bullying foundation that would link kids in school with heroes who can talk to them via videoconferencing technology.
“I got to see in the hospital what we’re capable of in terms of love and compassion,” he says, sitting on the deck of his sister’s home in Marblehead, Mass. “The bomb is one second of pure evil, despicable, the worst. But it’s followed by endless seconds of the good people can do.”
Scott Farmelant, a principal at Mills Public Relations in Boston who is helping Clowery establish his foundation, said that the bombing “was an event that opened his eyes to the way most people are, the overwhelming majority of people are. They’re compassionate, they’re empathetic. They do have love in their hearts and want to do some good.