Boston bombing: Couple still strong one year after tragedy

 

Ms Regan and Mr Fucarile say they are seeking a new "normal" that is merely difficult but not hideous, Mark Mardell reports from Boston

Marc Fucarile didn't really want to go watch the Boston Marathon last year - he'd never been before and isn't keen on crowds.

But he thought it would be fun to see some old friends and he could take his five-year-old son, Gavin, along too.

His fiancee Jen Regan persuaded him they'd probably want to have a beer and Gavin shouldn't miss pre-school. He agreed. That was the last piece of luck that day.

When the first bomb went off, Mr Fucarile and his friends all rushed into the street. The second blast was about 4ft (1.2m) away from them.

He found himself on his back, one leg on fire. He tried to get his trousers off, but got third-degree burns on his hands from touching his belt buckle.

His right leg had been blown off. People started to help. They told him not to try to sit up. He knew that wasn't good.

Marc Fucarile (centre) and Jen Regan (right) in a Boston, Massachusetts, hospital on 9 May 2013 Fucarile awoke from a coma in hospital

He'd once helped a guy in a car crash and remembered telling him not to move because he looked so bad.

First one ambulance and then another went by. They were too full.

Eventually a policeman took him to hospital. He kept thinking about his son. He had to stay alive for Gavin.

The twin swing doors to the hospital opened: he was wheeled through and then he blacked out. He was in a coma for days.

Someone phoned Ms Regan. The person told her to get the hospital quickly.

At first she thought it was one of his friends playing a sick joke, but then she realised this was serious.

She went with his brother, a policeman. He'd get her in past any security. When a doctor phoned to say Mr Fucarile had lost his leg, she threw the phone and punched the truck.

She said the man in the hospital bed looked nothing like him.

They are a pretty amazing couple. Together since school, childhood sweethearts.

An undated photo of Marc Fucarile (left) and Jen Regan Mr Fucarile (left) and Ms Regan plan to marry soon, to put a happy spin on a terrible anniversary

He was a roofer, she's a nurse, both Boston Irish-Italian.

A long line of family in the police, military and the fire brigade. He's a regular guy, a charmer, a joker and a tease.

She's tough and lovely, and says she is coping because you have to when you have family.

But her smile is thin and she's rather closer to the edge than you feel happy about.

They're the sort of people who tell you they're average Americans, but they're going through something extraordinary and terrible and somehow holding it together.

They name-check all the people who helped them, whom they've become close to, whose acts reassure them strength and goodness can be shaped from formless horror. An online fundraising effort has garnered more than $190,000 (£114,000).

Ms Regan says the bombers failed; the terrorists lost because of that, because Boston is strong, as the slogan goes.

"You think that you can break everyone and they didn't succeed, you know? They really didn't."

A lot of what they say could sound bitter in cold print - but it is not said with bitterness but resignation.

Jen Regan (left), Marc Fucarile and son Gavin (centre) in an undated photo The couple share a son, Gavin, who has struggled to reconcile himself to his father's injuries

They are clearly mourning a life they once had that will never return.

They hope for what Ms Regan calls "a new normal" that is merely bad, rather than hideous.

Mr Fucarile has endured endless surgery. His left foot had to be rebuilt, piece by slow piece, an artery taken out of the leg.

The spike of bone that once was his heel was chiselled down until it fit his newly-made foot. The last operation was in January. There will probably be more.

His burnt left leg hurts all the time. He wakes Ms Regan, screaming in the night. He has to decide whether to keep it or have it amputated as well.

And then there's the shrapnel in his heart. Another operation. His dad says open-heart surgery is really painful.

Watching Mr Fucarile with their six-year-old son Gavin, it is clear how much the boy loves him, clambering on his lap to look together at pictures on a laptop.

But they both say it is the impact on Gavin that is the worst of a list of very bad things.

Marc Fucarile (right) and son Gavin in an undated photo Fucarile says one of the worst aspects of his injuries is his inability to play with his son as he once did

"The hardest part for me is probably that Gavin got robbed of a big part of his childhood. Marc doesn't get to go outside with him and throw a ball like he used to. Or, you know, building a snowman - we didn't do anything this winter with him. It's awful," Ms Regan said.

"I think every little boy knows that there's bad guys out there but they think that it's like a cartoon," she added. "And now [Gavin] knows that there's real mean people out there and it's awful. I think that's been the hardest part for me."

This must be hard for Mr Fucarile to hear, but he doesn't disagree.

"The hardest thing has been my son, just when he makes comments like, 'It was funner, dad, when you had two legs'," he said.

People in a nearby courtyard "were playing out in the snow and he was like, 'Let's go out and play in the snow', and I was like, 'Daddy can't'".

They agree with the federal government that, if convicted, the man accused of the bombings should be put to death.

Mr Fucarile says anyone who doesn't think that is nuts.

"I hope that somebody burns him and shanks him and cuts his legs off," Ms Regan said.

At one point Mr Fucarile stops the interview - his new prosthetic leg is chaffing, and he is beginning to blister. He has to take it off.

When he returns and continues talking, Ms Regan rolls her eyes.

"You just go on and on and on," she said.

He reaches over to grab her. They laugh. They joke about how he chases her in the wheelchair, and how the noise it makes gives her the creeps.

They're getting married in a few days' time - it's a wedding long postponed and they say it will forever put a happy spin on the anniversary of the most awful week of their life.

But this is love amid the ruins. What is hard? Mr Fucarile recites a list.

Getting in the truck. Getting Gavin in the truck. Getting dressed. Getting in the shower. Falling down in the shower. Going to the toilet. Ms Regan not getting help with the dishes and the trash and every other little thing he used to do.

When asked what's hardest, he pauses, a world of pain on his face.

Ms Regan has the answer.

"What's hardest? Everything. Everything."

 
Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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