Adrianne Haslet-Davis was injured in Boston bombing, along with her husband
She describes hearing final outcome of the court case against one of the Boston bombers
Editor’s Note: Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a ballroom dancer, and her husband, Air Force Maj. Adam Davis, were injured in the Boston Marathon bombings. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.
My phone buzzed. My friend texted and said, “It’s coming.” We made a deal – if one of us heard first we’d tell the other. I was at home. Alone.
The verdict was in. Twenty-five months to the day, almost to the exact minute, since Boylston Street changed forever. Innocent lives were taken. No matter the age, everyone was someone’s child, someone’s best friend, someone’s lover. I see photos flash on the screen of the lives lost, the families I have grown to know dearly, people who have cried on each other’s shoulders and given countless hugs since that horrific day.
As I watch the television screen, clutching my cat like a child for comfort, I flash back to that day. I was lying in a pool of blood next to my hero, not sure if he, or I for that matter, were dead or alive.
Back in the present, the verdict was being read and I wasn’t understanding some of the legal banter. I scream at the television, my cat running into the other room, leaving me alone. I wrap my arms around my legs, feeling my prosthetic, and begin to cry. This is it, I tell myself. Brace for impact.
With PTSD you learn to get ready for impact at any turn: the backfiring of a car, the popping of a balloon, or random fireworks for a graduation party. Thanks to the man who I consider the world’s greatest therapist I have become stronger. Not better, but stronger.
Yet in this moment there is only one thing I want more than the news of the verdict. I want my husband. He is gone to treatment for PTSD related to the bombing and to his deployment in Afghanistan until the doctors feel he is healthy and stable enough to come home. As of now, we are hearing it could be months.
He won’t be walking through the door right now. So here I am reading the television screen as the anchor reports on the outcome of a life. The life of someone who, I am certain, knew what the outcome would be long before he did what he did. Actions have consequences. He knew what he was doing. (I have not written a victim impact story for the court as I feel he does not deserve even a minute more of my time, and nothing I can say will make him say anything that will benefit my or my family’s mental or physical health.)
We have a justice system for a reason. This is exactly that reason.
’I cannot believe this is my life’
There are more outcomes being read, I keep hearing the phrase “on all counts.” I wish I had gone to law school at this moment; I want Cliffs Notes. What does it mean when they say all but some jurors? All I want to hear is that he will be sentenced to death on more than one count. I’m listening for that exact phrase.
I tune out as the reporter pauses for more information to come through. I cannot believe this is my life. I never thought I would be in this position. I lost a family member, my birth mother, to a serial killer and now here I am, an almost mirror image of it decades later. Only now it is the murder of my left foot. It is the murder of my marriage the way it used to be. It is the murder of my dream since I was 4 years old to grow up and be Ginger Rogers.
As a military spouse, I have learned it is normal to be away from my family and friend support system back home in Seattle. What it is like to make that call to mom and dad after being blown up by a terrorist. That you are dying and that you fear their son-in-law is dead. To tell them: Please tell his parents, it should come from you and not a police officer.
Thankfully, when they called, Adam’s parents had just heard from someone that he was badly injured, losing blood quickly, but had made it to the hospital. Thank goodness. Yet I wouldn’t find that out for a long, agonizing time.
It flashes in front of me on the screen and hits me like a punch straight to the gut. I thought I wanted this…and now. Now I burst out bawling. Heaving, grabbing for my cats. They want no part of this. I pull myself together, asking myself why am I feeling this way? Didn’t I want this? This is just part of the emotional roller coaster that is PTSD. I’m overwhelmed and yet calm, all at once.
The phone rings. It’s Adam. We talk briefly and he is upset he can’t get more information while he is being treated. I try to tell him all I know and we get kicked off the phone. I cannot imagine what it is like to not have a cell phone and limited television and talking time at a moment like this. My entire body aches for his sadness of being gone.
’Moms always say it best’
Again, the screen flashes with a photo of him, and only the words, in all caps, DEATH PENALTY. I scream, no longer crying, and call my parents. My mother answers. “Mom!! Mom!! It’s the death sentence! He got the death sentence on more than one count!”
She pauses, both of us knowing that while we may not agree on the death penalty, we always support each other. “Adrianne I am so happy you are having some type of solace in this. All I want, all I ever want, is for you to be at peace. If this brings you even a little bit of peace, I am thrilled for you. I love you so much and I am just glad you and Adam are alive, and that monster is gone. You are a fighter, all that you have been through in life, you are braver than anyone I have ever known, my love. I wish I were there to hold you and kiss you.”
Moms always say it best, and mine is no exception. We grew up on the phrase, “We may not always agree with what you say, yet we will fight to the death for your right to say it.”
The feeling of coming off of an emotional roller coaster is indescribable. Preparing for this day for 25 months, and now it is over. We all know the outcome. The jury can hopefully sleep a little better, resume their lives. The incredibly dedicated prosecution team and FBI agents that we got to know can go home to their families and get some much needed time off after their tireless work for justice for 25 months.
Our Boylston Street family can go on with our lives. Helping and inspiring so many, with charities, volunteer work, and giving back to the city to one day show Boston how much the city, its people and its spirit has given us.
My husband and I now look to the future. He will tell more of his story after he takes the time he needs to heal and when he is home. It is his story to tell and he looks forward to it, hoping to help others erase the stigma of getting the proper mental help that so many people in this country need.
Getting on with a new normal
I continue my volunteer work and travel for fundraisers with Limbs for Life, an organization that gives limbs to lower amputees who otherwise can’t afford them. I volunteer with the USO and military families all over New England struggling with spouses deployed, roadside bomb attacks, and the need for advice about caretakers.
I started a group about six months ago called Sister Legs, which pairs sudden traumatic amputees and others who have lost limbs with seasoned amputees. I get the call from a Boston hospital at all hours to sit bedside with a patient and speak with family members about what to expect. And I accompany them to their prosthetic appointments, as it is such uncharted territory for them.
My team’s goal is to broaden this outside of the Boston area so all female amputees have a Sister Leg to call in the middle of the night and answer the hard questions that only women and amputees would understand.
I continue to dance almost every day, performing and speaking regularly all over the country and beyond. I am preparing a dance piece for an upcoming event next year that I can hardly wait to share. It has kept me focused on the good.
Recently, I spoke to members of Congress on behalf of the American Orthotic Prosthetic Association with the Amputee Coalition for Mobility Saves. Mobility Saves has proven to Medicare that providing coverage for prosthetics saves lives and money. It was an honor and privilege to speak to members of Congress and their aides.
Some states, by law, only provide one leg per lifetime. This has to change and I look forward to returning to Congress regularly until this changes. There are so many causes I had no idea needed so much support until this happened. I am privileged to be invited to help these teams make a difference.
“This must be closure for you and Adam!” I hear people say. I smile on the inside and say it is simply a page from our new normal.
For now, I am happy the trial, the longest chapter thus far, is complete.