The Costco Connection
Stronger is available in most Costco
“IT WAS THE TALK of Boston, and maybe beyond. For the rest of the day, whenever people huddled together to talk about the bombing, they talked about me: “Did you see the man in the wheelchair? The one without his legs?” That was the shorthand people used when they wanted to share
their horror. In those first hours, that was the image that brought the
The photograph doesn’t bother me. I wish my family hadn’t found
out that way; I wish I was just another anonymous victim. The photo
changed my life.
But that’s the world we live in. A lot of people take pictures of a lot
less interesting stuff. There are photos of me standing near the finish
line before the bomb went off, and even photos of me on the ground.
Charles Krupa, who took the iconic photo, worked for the Associated
Press. I’m not upset with him. Why would I be mad at a journalist for
doing his job? I’m mad that some kids set off a bomb. I’m mad that I lost
my legs, and that a lot of people who have since become my friends lost
their legs, too. I’m mad that three people were killed, including an
But the photograph? It just showed what happened. A bomb
exploded. It was packed with nails and ball bearings, which ripped
through bodies, tore apart muscles, and shattered bones. It was built
for maximum violence, and it worked. People were hurt in ways so horrible that seeing it makes you sick. I’m fine that the world was shocked,
because bombing a crowd of innocent people is shocking.
But that’s not what the photo is about. Not really. It doesn’t show the
bomb, and it doesn’t show me being injured. It shows what happened
afterward: Brave people rushed in. They saved our lives. Three people
died at the scene. But nobody died at the hospital, or on the way to the
hospital. Nobody died from bomb wounds over the next few weeks.
There were 260 of us injured, and thanks to the bravery of others, we
all have a chance to go on: to love and laugh and inspire, just like before.
That’s why the picture doesn’t bother me. Because it’s not a picture
of heartbreak, even though it’s still too painful for me to see. It’s a picture
of hope, because the kid without his legs? The one burned and cut and
deathly pale? He lived.
And he’s going to be fine.
Excerpt from Stronger
Begins on page 29 of Stronger.
Over dinner, we talked about the book.
Je;, who worked part time in the deli section
of the Nashua, New Hampshire, Costco warehouse before his accident, is by nature a quiet
and unassuming guy. He really doesn’t enjoy
being the center of attention. So, when I asked
him how writing the book went, he gave me a
look that said it wasn’t easy.
“I sat in a room for eight hours a day for
a whole month telling [co-writer Bret Witter]
my life story,” he said. “It was a good experi-
ence, but I got really antsy. Sometimes I would
sit there bouncing a rubber ball o; the wall
while we talked. Half the time I was like a
hyperactive child. He had to give me breaks
so I could play video games, and toward the
end of the day sometimes he’d give up and
we’d just drink a beer together.”
Ultimately, Je; says, he pushed through
the discomfort of talking about himself and
rehashing the events surrounding the bomb-
ings to write Stronger within the ;rst year,
because he felt such tremendous support from
the city of Boston and from nearly everywhere
else in the world. He thought it was best to try
to write the story while people were still con-
nected to the tragedy.
Alive and well
Je; opens the book by saying he knows
exactly when his life changed: the day of the
bombings. He also shares what ran through
his head and how he felt moments before,
during and a;er the blast. It’s an absolutely
chilling part of his story. While there’s no
denying that day dramatically and permanently altered the trajectory of his life, it’s
evident in his story that the day he met Erin,
a few years earlier, his life also changed, but
for the better, in a big way.
“Oh yeah, that’s de;nitely true,” Je; responds, when I mention this. “She had a solid
plan for her life and was already well on the
way to reaching her goals. I wasn’t sure where
I was headed and wasn’t sure how I was going
to get there. She showed me that reaching
your dreams was doable.
“By the way, Erin’s pregnant, Will,” he says.
“Our life is not all about me anymore. Now it’s
all about our family.”
As Jeff begins a
new chapter of his life,
with Erin, and a baby
this fall, I’m con;dent
his courage, grace and
sense of humor will
make this part of their
lives together beauti-
ful and inspiring—
just as it has been all
SUPPORT BOSTON STRONG: Many Boston Marathon bomb survivors are still in need
of financial support. To donate, go to
this fall, I’m con;dent
make this part of their