John A. Cowin ’64 Offers First-Hand Testimony of April 15 Boston Marathon Bombing
Powerful Account of Carnage, Courage, and Character
By John A. Cowin, M.D. ‘64
Note: The following powerful Facebook page account—by Poly alum John Cowin ’64—of the recent, tragic Boston Marathon bombing was passed to us via Cowin’s classmate Donald Crawford ’64 with the terse, but telling, comment, “What Poly men do…” Please note that the posting below is a graphic, first-hand narrative of what happened immediately after two bombs were set off in Boston on April 15, 2013, starting at approximately 2:49 PM, during the running of the Boston Marathon. The bombs killed 3 people and injured 264, many severely. Although we are deeply sensitive to the victims of the bombing and their suffering, we believe that this account is very valuable because it makes clear both the horror of terrorism and the valor of first responders who risk injury and psychic trauma to help others. We mourn those lost, wish for speedy and complete recoveries for those who were wounded, and honor all those who helped. Poly’s most important value is character, and we hope that Cowin’s compassionate story of how he and others reacted to the bombing will inspire our entire community to vigilance and courage. For those who wish to help victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, please consider making a donation to the “One Fund Boston,” established by Boston Mayor Thomas V. Menino and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Click here to donate to the “One Fund Boston.”
“Brian Meegan asked me to relay what happened at the Boston Marathon."
“Lynda [my daughter] was running her third marathon for the Dana Farber Cancer institute. Anna and I had gone up there to cheer her on. Zev and the kids had gone in a separate car and they were to meet us near the finish. On our side of the street the crowd was five deep. We could hardly move through it. The crowd was only three deep on the other side of the street.”
“We heard and saw the first bomb go off. People started to panic and ran away from the bomb. I pushed Anna to the street barricade because I was afraid we would be trampled by the crowd. At that point the second bomb went off across the street from us. The crowd started to run in the other direction. I told her to stay where she was and knocked down the barricade to cross the street to get to the wounded. Those of you who know Anna know she doesn't listen to me and followed me across the street. (For those of you whose who may be bothered by my descriptions, stop reading now.)"
“There was blood everywhere. One man in his thirties had his leg blown off at mid thigh. Someone had used a belt as a tourniquet to stem the bleeding. He lay there calling out for help. I went to help a man who lost his foot. His beard was singed. His major concern was his three year old who was crying hysterically in a canvas stroller beside him. The baby had a small laceration on his scalp. I picked him up and tried to comfort him. I assured his father he was OK. There were too many other injured there for me to keep the baby and I wanted to get him out of danger. I handed him to a policeman and asked him to take him. The man, who lost his foot, was stable. I next came across a woman who had her arms around her eight year-old son who had expired. She had been injured and they were trying to move her to an ambulance. As they covered the child, she asked just to stay with him a little longer. The next two most seriously injured were two Chinese girls. The first was propped up against a fence and was obviously going into shock. There was someone trying to help her. People from the restaurant where the bomb exploded were bringing out tablecloths to use as bandages. She had one covering her abdomen. When I lifted it, she had a shrapnel wound to her belly. We got some tablecloths under her head so we could lay her down. At the same time they were giving CPR to the other Chinese woman. She had vomited so they were trying to clear her airway. At that point the medics arrived with an airway. The airway was inserted and I bagged her until they were able to put her in an ambulance. I tried to help the medics identify the most critically injured so they could be moved first. By this time the ambulances had arrived and we helped them load the wounded. In some ambulances they carried two or three wounded.”
“Meanwhile Anna was across the street helping some of the walking wounded. I think she was the only other civilian there."
"By this time the police were clearing the area because they didn't know if there were any other bombs there. In the Middle East they will plant one bomb and wait until the first responders come and set off another bomb. We were pushed out of the area. As I was moving out the area, the police and firemen kept asking me if I was injured. It took me a little while to figure out why. My clothes were covered with blood and I looked more like a victim than a physician.”
“There were nurses and other medical personnel from the crowd who also responded. There was one nurse who seemed to be everywhere at once. I never did get her name. When I got there there was a young man who was using his belt as a tourniquet. When I identified myself, he told me he had gotten back from Afghanistan and had seen similar trauma.”
“By this time all cell phones were shut off. Many times the cell phones are used to set off bombs. Anna had managed to get off a text to Zev letting him know that we were OK. He told us they were at the hotel getting a snack."
“Lynda had passed the 25th mile and had no idea what was going on. People were on the sidelines cheering the runners on. The police had stopped the race behind her. She saw one woman crying on the side of the road and thought that maybe she had been dumped by her boyfriend. The police then came out onto the road and stopped the race. Lynda was ten minutes from finishing. She asked the policeman what was going on. He told her a bomb had gone off. Her cell phone had died so she no idea where anyone was but she knew we would be waiting at the finish line. She said bystanders were wonderful. One lady gave her a coat and let her use her cell phone. Anna kept getting these calls from a 613 area code and when she tried to answer them she couldn't hear anything. Anna said she had no idea who it was but she decided to text them that everyone was ok. By that time the woman whose phone it was had left the area. She turned around and came back to let her know everyone was OK. Lynda said that was the longest 45 minutes of her life.”
“The police, the firemen and EMTs did a wonderful job in moving the wounded and I believe the death toll would have been much worse without their response."
"For those of you who have with me this long I would just like to add one more thing. Lynda cautioned me about being too graphic. I remember after 9/11 the media stopped showing the plane crash because they thought it would bother the public’s sensibilities. We should be reminded these terrorists want to destroy us and will stop at nothing to reach that end. Hopefully reading this will reinforce that idea."
"Please pray for those injured and the families of those who died."
"G-d bless America.”