Survivors Gird for the Trial

Marathon bombing survivors gird themselves for Tsarnaev’s day in court

From left: Karen Brassard thinks seeing the trial will help her heal; John and Karen Odom will pay attention from afar; Celeste and Kevin Corcoran don’t acknowledge Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s existence and won’t attend the trial; Heather Abbott isn’t sure how she’ll feel.
Celeste Corcoran can’t bring herself to utter his name.
Marc Fucarile intends to go to court as often as he can, hoping the accused terrorist gets a good look at the prosthesis that has replaced much of his right leg.
Heather Abbott has mixed feelings about attending, but if she does, she hopes to better understand — if that’s even possible — why anyone would attack people who came to cheer for others.
With the long-awaited trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev scheduled to start on Monday in US District Court, survivors of the Marathon bombings are grappling with whether they want to be there, and what they hope comes of the allegations that the 21-year-old from Cambridge conspired with his late brother to plant two bombs that killed three people and injured more than 260 others, including 17 people who lost limbs.
Some feel the recitation of evidence and the possibility that they may be called to testify will open wounds that are still healing. Others believe a conviction that could lead to the death penalty would bring closure to the horror they experienced near the finish line on April 15, 2013.
Most just want it to be over as quickly as possible.
They want justice done — and they want to move on.

A struggle to regain former selves, but joy in daughter’s recovery

Ron and Karen Brassard were standing right next to the Corcorans, their old friends, waiting for Celeste’s sister to complete her first marathon.
Shrapnel carved a chunk out of Ron’s left leg, severing an artery and causing nerve damage. The blast sent a pipe-like piece into Karen’s left ankle, and a 3-inch piece of shrapnel into her right shin.
Karen Brassard, leaving a court hearing in Boston last month, will be attending the federal trial without her husband.
Karen Brassard, leaving a court hearing in Boston last month, will be attending the federal trial without her husband.
Several surgeries and procedures followed, and the Brassards are doing as well as they can. “We have aches and pains if we do a lot of walking, but we just take more stops and rest more,” said Karen, 52.
There have been other challenges. “We feel so changed, and it’s kind of frustrating not to be who we were before,” she said. “There’s just not as much joy in things that we were so enthusiastic about. We still struggle with memory and organization.”
About a year ago, the couple sold their lake house in Epsom, N.H., and moved to Nashua to be closer to family and friends. Ron, 53, who is in the fire protection business, has changed jobs. His old one required that he travel much of the time, something he can no longer do.
Their daughter, Krystara, who was 20 at the time, had shrapnel wounds from her hips to her ankles. She’s now in her fourth year at Northeastern University and has maintained a 4.0 average. “I’m amazed by her,” Karen said. Two months ago, a BB pellet that had been pressing against a nerve in Krystara’s ankle finally surfaced and she had it removed.
Karen Brassard plans to attend as much of the trial as she can. “I just think it’s another step for me to go through in my healing, to go through the entire process from beginning to end,” she said. Her husband wants nothing to do with it.
She has struggled with whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev deserves the death penalty; she doesn’t want her feelings to be influenced by anger or vengeance.
“Ultimately, I’ve come to the conclusion that I do think it’s just, based on the choices he made,” she said. “Do I want to be there when he’s executed? No, I don’t take any pleasure from it.”

Video: Karen Brassard talks about upcoming Tsarnaev trial


Hope for new information, but reluctance to relive events

At a recent courthouse meeting, federal prosecutors began preparing bombing survivors for the graphic evidence that will be shown at the trial. Listening to their warnings, Heather Abbott began to realize just how hard the months ahead might be.
Heather Abbott, walking near her home in Newport, R.I., says her feelings have been a surprise at times.
Heather Abbott, walking near her home in Newport, R.I., says her feelings have been a surprise at times.
“We really are going to be reliving everything,” said Abbott, 40, of Newport, R.I., who lost her left leg below the knee.
She has mixed feelings about the trial.
While she looks forward to the day it finally ends, and sometimes wishes she could “go away and come back when it’s over,” she said she’s likely to attend at some point.
The trial will be her only chance to survey the full array of evidence firsthand. She isn’t sure how much of it she wants to see, but on her long road to understanding what happened that day, having the option is important to her.
She doesn’t pretend to know how she will feel when she gets there.
“This has been a learning process every step of the way, and many times I’ve been surprised by how I’ve felt,” said Abbott, who works in human resources for Raytheon Co. “I would love to think I’ll get some answers — and understand why — but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Her name is on the list of potential witnesses, but she doesn’t think she’ll be called to testify. She would consider making a victim impact statement, but she prefers that the opportunity to speak be given to the families of Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, and Krystle Campbell, who were killed by the bombs, and Sean Collier, the MIT policeman allegedly shot to death by the Tsarnaev brothers.
She fears, though, that their suffering would only please Tsarnaev.
“I could say how much he hurt me and other people, but that’s what he wanted,” said Abbott, who has started the Heather Abbott Foundation to help other amputees.
As for the punishment, Abbott said, in the end, it doesn’t matter.
“Whether he gets life or the death penalty,” she said, “I’m not going to get my leg back.”

Video: Heather Abbott talks about upcoming Tsarnaev trial


Turning their backs on the suspect, while rooting for the ultimate penalty

Celeste and Kevin Corcoran, along with their daughter Sydney, are focused on building their new home.
Celeste and Kevin Corcoran, along with their daughter Sydney, are focused on building their new home.
The Corcoran family is well into the next chapter, celebrating the construction of a new handicapped-accessible home on 2½ acres they bought in Dracut with donations made to the One Fund Boston.
Sydney Corcoran almost bled to death after shrapnel shredded a major artery in her right thigh, and her mother, Celeste, had her legs so mangled from the blast that both had to be amputated.
Celeste will not attend the trial, and cannot even bring herself to utter Tsarnaev’s name.
Neither can her husband, Kevin, who still struggles with post-traumatic stress. He frantically strapped belts around his wife’s legs after the explosion to keep her from bleeding to death.
“We never use his name. I have never said his name,” Kevin Corcoran said. “Whenever I see his name in print, or see it on TV, I try to make a concerted effort to not even be aware that this exists.”
Sydney Corcoran, 19, is uncertain whether she will attend the trial, though her parents hope she does not.
Tsarnaev has developed a loyal online following and some of his fans have taunted Sydney, 19, on social media, preposterously suggesting that the bombings never happened, and that the Corcorans faked their injuries.
Kevin Corcoran said he receives updates from the Justice Department on the Tsarnaev case, but he hits delete without opening them.
He was not even aware of exactly when the US District Court trial was scheduled to begin.
But he said federal officials have talked to him and Celeste about potentially making victim impact statements, should Tsarnaev be convicted.
Without question, Kevin wants the death penalty for Tsarnaev.
“He gave up his right to breathe air and walk with the rest of us as soon as he hit that activator to detonate that bomb,” Kevin Corcoran said. “I don’t care how old he is, I don’t care that his brother could have influenced him. I don’t care. He is an adult.”

Steady presence will serve as reminder, and then echo during long life in prison

 Marc Fucarile, who attended the Dec. 18 pretrial hearing, wants to be visible at the trial
Marc Fucarile, who attended the Dec. 18 pretrial hearing, wants to be visible at the trial.
Marc Fucarile would rather be working on an addition to his new home, a ranch in Reading, but he plans to attend the Tsarnaev trial as often as he can.
“I want to see him, and I want him to see me,” said Fucarile,who lost his right leg in the second blast, and is scheduled to visit a doctor for a look at his left leg, whichcontinues to be painful and prone to infection. “I want him to see the people he hurt.”
Fucarile, 36, said he’s not apprehensive about the encounterwithhis alleged attacker, nor is he nervous about the outcome. He believes justice will be served.
Fucarile prefers that Tsarnaev be sentenced to life in prison. The death penalty, he said, would let him off too easily.
Ultimately, though, no punishment could ever suffice, he said.
“He’s probably happy and proud of what he did.”
Fucarile had surgery on his left knee in August to remove calcium buildup. His stitches got infected, and then he had a bad reaction to antibiotics that required him to spend five days at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Afterward, he returned to the roofing company where he was employed before the bombings, placing orders and scheduling deliveries. He tried working four daysa week,then three days, and two days, until deciding he wasn’t ready for the strain.
His wife, Jen, has returned to work as a nurse, but she has a flexible schedule that allows her to work around his physical therapy and medical appointments.
She plans to attend the trial too, he said.

Reminders of what is lost, but also what they still have

John Odom can walk again, although part of his left leg is essentially paralyzed and he needs regular therapy.
John Odom can walk again, although part of his left leg is essentially paralyzed and he needs regular therapy.
John Odom endured 11 operations from shrapnel that severed arteries in both of his legs. He lost so much blood that his heart stopped beating twice. His sciatic nerve was destroyed and he required 23 units of blood, more than twice the amount the average person has in their body. His doctors said it was the most they had ever given a patient who survived.
Nearly five months after the attack, Odom was the last of the bombing survivors to go home.
Since then, he and his wife, Karen, have been catching up on all that they feared they had lost: sharing bottles of wine while watching the sun set over the Pacific from their house in Redondo Beach, Calif., inhaling the minty air of their eucalyptus trees, hugging family and friends. The high school sweethearts enjoy cruising in their new Bentley, which she bought for him as an early retirement gift when he left his job as chairman of a mechanical contracting firm.
But they live with constant reminders of what happened that afternoon on Boylston Street.
Odom, 67, can walk again, but it’s a slow shuffle, because his left leg is essentially paralyzed from the knee down. He has no feeling in his left foot. He uses a cane and experiences shooting pains in his back. He still goes to physical therapy twice a week and sees a trainer.
His wife, 63, was standing next to him during the attack but came away without a scratch.
They’ve been back to Boston — for the 2014 Marathon.
They have no plans to return for the trial, but they will be paying attention.
They don’t expect to have to testify, but if the prosecutors need their help, they would return.
They would like to see Tsarnaev plead guilty, so that he disappears from the public eye, and the survivors can move on with their lives.
“This is really the only thing keeping him in the news,” she said.
But they aren’t opposed to the death penalty.
“I wouldn’t mind if they put him a room and blow him up,” John Odom said. “That would be one way to show what he did to other people.”
She prefers to see him sentenced to life in prison. “Capital punishment would be the easy way out for him,” she said.

Carrying hidden wounds, mother stands in for two injured sons working to move on

Liz Norden can understand why some survivors say they would prefer to ignore the trial.
Her two oldest sons, each of whom lost a leg in the blasts, are among them.
 Stoneham resident Liz Norden was on hand for the suspect’s arraignment in July 2013.
Stoneham resident Liz Norden was on hand for the suspect’s arraignment in July 2013.
But the 52-year-old Stoneham mother of five plans to attend every day. She can’t explain exactly why, but she feels the need to soak up every detail. She finds new information comforting, even if answers remain elusive
“I’m going to the trial because of me,” she said. “It’s something for me. I want to go.”
She also hopes her presence serves as a reminder, to Tsarnaev and to the juryof the horrific damage wrought by the bombs.
She’s still reeling from the call she received that afternoon, when J.P., 35, called from inside an ambulance, saying,“Ma, I’m hurt real bad.” He was headed to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, while her other son, Paul, 33, was at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Over the next weeks, she barely slept, shuttling between the hospitals, listening to doctors talk about multiple surgeries.
J.P. and Paul, deeply private men, no longer want to be identified with the bombing. Bothhave become engaged to their girlfriends and, with the help from the One Fund, have bought homes accessible to the disabled.
Both men move around fairly well on their prosthetic legs, though not well enough to return to their old jobs as roofers. They are considering starting their own roofing business.
Liz is proud of the way her sons have handled everything, and she, too, has moved on in many ways, now working as a part-time nanny. She has also started A Leg Forever, a charitable foundation that helps amputees and their families.
But still, there are many sleepless nights when she scours the Internet for additional tidbits of information. She tracks the weather, knowing ice on the pavement leaves her sons vulnerable to a bad fall. She remembers that J.P. still needs surgeries for his eardrums, which were badly injured in the blasts.
“It consumes my life,” she said through tears.
For this reason, she plans to be in court every day. Her sons, she said, wish she felt the way they do and would skip it.
But she can’t. She hopes Tsarnaev gets the ultimate penalty.
She believes he deserves to die for his crimes.