By Will Fifield
UP UNTIL LUNCHTIME, April 15, 2013,
was just a normal Monday. As usual, I forced
myself to go to a gym and tried to keep up
with a friend. But in the middle of our workout, while I was trying to rub life back into my
burning muscles, surreal images of bombs
exploding in a crowd of spectators flashed on
a nearby TV.
“What is this?” I asked, as the camera
panned across what looked like war footage.
I was confused, because moments earlier
the TV had been on a sports channel. Then
I noticed it said “Boston Marathon” off to
My heart raced as cameras panned across
bloody brick streets where victims lay struggling, many with severely damaged limbs.
“Oh God, look at this,” I said.
The trauma on the screen before us was
all too familiar. As I watched, I was mentally
whisked back to a horrible winter night in
1990. My brother Matt and I lay on the side
of a desert road, bleeding profusely, internally and externally, as emergency medics
worked to save our lives following a head-on
car accident. I lost the lower half of my right
leg, sustained more than a dozen broken
bones and suffered third-degree burns on
most of my back and a portion of the right
side of my face as a result. This scene is where
I wind up mentally every time I see trauma.
I normally don’t watch news stations, but
A mission of hope
I was attentive as details of the Boston Marathon
bombings came to light. I felt sick for the
people who lost loved ones, especially for the
family of 8-year-old Martin Richard, and
early on I learned that one of the survivors,
Jeff Bauman, was a Costco employee. Bauman
lost both of his legs above the knee.
As an amputee, I somehow wanted to
bring hope to the survivors who had lost
limbs and suffered physical trauma, and to
Jeff especially, since we work for the same
company. Immediately I thought of Byron
Speer, a Costco employee who works at the
Issaquah, Washington, warehouse, near
Costco’s headquarters, where I work. Byron
is an inspiration. Though he lost both of his
legs above the knee when a van struck him
on the side of the road while he was securing
a load in his pickup truck in 2003, he still
works in the warehouse, and he’s still an
active dirt bike enthusiast. He is a can-do guy
who tries to be self-sufficient, even to the
point of growing as much food for his two
sons and himself as he can at his 20-acre
home in western Washington.
“We should take up a collection to send
Byron Speer over to meet Jeff,” I said to a few
co-workers at Costco’s home office with
whom I had been discussing the latest news of
the bombings. I felt that seeing Byron, who
has dealt with similar injuries and works a
similar job, would be a shot of hope for Jeff.
Apparently someone else thought so too.
A few days later I started getting emails and
phone calls from people in Costco management. Members of Costco’s top management
got wind of my idea and asked if Byron and I
would be interested in going to Boston to
meet Jeff. A few weeks later, we were on a
plane. If you’ve ever heard that Costco takes
care of its employees, believe it.
A magic meeting
After we landed, we met Kevin Horst and
Jeff in the lobby of The Colonnade Hotel.
Kevin is general manager of Costco’s Nashua,
New Hampshire, warehouse, where Jeff
worked part-time in the deli section. While
Kevin is Jeff’s boss, he’s so much more. Kevin’s
boss, Costco divisional Executive Vice
President Joe Portera, asked him to take care
of Jeff and his family until further notice. To
Kevin this assignment is an honor. You can
see it in the way he attends to Jeff’s needs.
Kevin’s friendly manner and Jeff’s sense
of humor immediately put us at ease. In minutes, our conversation turned to scars. Jeff,
Byron and I each pulled up our shirts to
compare trauma scars. It was a great icebreaker. In moments, Byron, who alternates
between walking on prosthetic legs and zipping around in a high-tech wheelchair, gave
Jeff his thoughts on the best wheelchairs on
the market and how to gain upper body
strength. Seeing the two of them chat about
A time to heal
Costco and employees unite
to care for Boston bomb
survivor Jeff Bauman From left, Costco employees Jeff Bauman, Will Fifield and Byron Speer compare notes about life
after limb loss during a recent
dinner in the Boston area, where
KEVIN HORS T