Behind Michelle Connolly’s right eye sat a pellet, thrust there by a bomb at Monday’s Marathon. It singed nerves as it traveled through her orbital socket and came to rest on a cluster of muscles. She just wanted it out.
“I don’t want any part of that evil that hurt so many people inside of me,” the 52-year-old South Boston grandmother said the day before the pea-sized shrapnel was surgically removed.
About a dozen members of her family had stood near the finish line waiting for her daughter, Keryn Connolly, to stride victoriously across. “This was a big deal for our family,” her mother said. “The whole community was very anxious for her to cross that finish line.”
Connolly waited just to the side of Marathon Sports on Boylston Street, close to where a bomb detonated. The force knocked her sunglasses off her head and her cellphone from her hand, and something, possibly a piece of a table, hit her in the head.
She could find only three members of her group. So, disoriented, dizzy, and covered in blood, Connolly searched. One of her daughter’s friends suffered two puncture wounds in her leg, requiring more than a dozen stitches.
The removal of shrapnel from one bombing victim is a small salve that slowly soothes the collective psyche of family and friends. No one, it seems, watches the Marathon in isolation. People congregate in groups to cheer on mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters. Lives woven together through friendship and family.
Now, they suffer together.
More than 170 people were injured when the bombs made from pressure cookers blew up. Five days later, more than 50 remain hospitalized by the projectiles that tore through the crowd, piercing stomachs, heads, arms, legs. Sisters lie in separate hospitals and communicate via video chat in between skin grafts and surgeries to repair broken bones and amputated limbs. Friends who stood chatting at the finish line now suffer hearing loss. College students return to their parents’ homes to recuperate, wondering when they will see roommates again.
Remy Lawler, a Lesley University student, lives with two graduates in an apartment in Brighton. She was at the race to watch her roommate Erin Hurley. Hurley’s boyfriend, Jeff Bauman, was there, too, as was a third roommate.
Lawler, 25, had just stepped away from the group to take pictures of the runners. Bauman had offered to hoist Lawler onto his shoulders, but she declined, opting to push toward the front of the line.
Then, a bomb exploded.
Lawler’s parents were at their Amesbury home gardening when a neighbor stopped by to tell them what happened. Knowing her daughter was at the race, Lawler’s mother went inside to check her cellphone. She had a voicemail.
“We could hear EMTs saying: ‘You’re not going to lose your leg,’ ” said Lawler’s father, Arthur.
She didn’t, but Bauman lost both of his. Lawler suffered soft tissue damage to her right thigh and has undergone multiple surgeries. If Remy Lawler had stayed closer to her friends, her father said, her injuries would have been far worse.
“My daughter is angry and depressed,” Arthur Lawler said. “She’s angry that her friends were badly wounded. She’s angry that on a beautiful day somebody could have the audacity to do something like this, especially to children.”
She was “really angry” when, still groggy from her second surgery, the FBI tried to interview her.
“Things,” her father said, “will never be the same again.”
A changed future is what Roseann Sdoia fears most.
The single North End woman had her right leg amputated just above the knee. Her left leg was punctured by a tree branch. She suffered shrapnel wounds to her abdomen.
“She does not want any pity,” said a lifelong friend, Christine Hart. “Her fear is that she’s not going to be able to resume the same life she was living before.”
Sdoia and a group of friends walked to the finish line after watching the Red Sox play, just like she has done every Marathon Monday for years. She stood along the metal barricade chatting, and a green mailbox stood sentinel between the friends. That mailbox, Hart said, is the difference between Sdoia’s critical injuries and her friends’ loss of hearing.
As Sdoia lay on the sidewalk, her right shin shredded by the bomb, a firefighter and police officer rushed to her aid. They put her in the back of a police wagon, with the firefighter stabilizing her as another officer drove them to a hospital, where she remains.
Boston is where Sdoia, who grew up in the Merrimack Valley, wants to stay. “She loves Boston,” said Hart, who has started a fund-raising campaign to help Sdoia cover medical bills and retrofit her home.
It could be up to seven days before Lee Ann Yanni sees the inside of her home. And once she’s released from Tufts Medical Center, Yanni will make regular trips to the orthopedic surgeon to repair her fractured fibula. The bone burst through the skin on her left leg, requiring a series of surgeries to clean the wound, bring the muscle back together, and cover the hole with a skin graft.
Yanni, a physical therapist, and her husband, Nicholas, were watching one of her patients and friends run the Marathon. They, too, were standing near the running store when the first explosion sounded. They both looked down at her leg, saw blood and bones.
“I kind of jumped into Marathon Sports to try and get a tourniquet on my leg,” she said.
Nicholas Yanni, who suffered temporary hearing loss, said he followed his wife into the store “freaking out. She was as cool as a cucumber.” The couple grabbed shirts from the racks to stem the flow of blood. Then he went to check on the rest of their group, and husband and wife were separated. A friend’s mother, Beth Roche, 60, suffered a shattered kneecap and other injuries as she was thrown to the pavement.
A police officer carried Lee Ann Yanni from the store to the finish line, where a firefighter loaded her into a golf cart and took her to the medical tent. That’s where her husband found her as she was being placed in an ambulance.
Five days later, Yanni said: “I still get nervous with loud noises or something dropping.”
Still, she knows the road to recovery can only be walked day by day, minute by minute. “That’s the biggest thing I tell my patients. If you think of the daunting task of what is all ahead, it just makes you all depressed.”
Connolly, the South Boston grandmother, said she is struggling to reconcile the fact that her injuries were minor when others were so severe.
She suffered a concussion and a high-tech scan revealed the pellet behind her eye. It was removed Friday.
“Do I consider myself lucky in an unlucky situation? I’m really struggling with that.”