For Clowery, the friendships remained solid through times he traveled hither and yon as a professional pool player.
“Every time I would come back to Stoneham, J.P., and Paul, and this group of guys never denied me — they were never like: ‘Aw, where you been?’ ” said Clowery, a member of the New England Pool and Billiard Hall of Fame. “They’ve always just been my friends, whether they see me or not.”
The timing of the attack was particularly brutal for the group. This winter, construction jobs had slowed and paychecks had stretched thin.
Money got so tight for Clowery that he planned to forgo a present for his son Jarrod’s 11th birthday. Days before the birthday, J.P handed Clowery $100.
“Give it to Jarrod,” Clowery recalled J.P. saying. “And this is the kicker, listen to what he says: ‘Don’t put my name on it; make sure you put your name on it.’ That’s my friends. So I would look like the hero to my son.”
This month, things had begun to turn. Clowery, a carpenter, was set to start a solid job. Paul Norden planned to join Sheet Metal Workers Local 17. Marshall Roofing, where Marc worked full time, and J.P. and Paul put in part-time hours, was gearing up for its summer season.
“Marc is just a hard-working kid with a great personality, always a personality,” said Rob Marshall, owner of Marshall Roofing in Peabody, where the Nordens’ father also worked. “And J.P. and Paul, they’re hard workers, good guys.”
On April 15, the two brothers mobilized everyone to go watch Jefferson — who used to run for Stoneham High — finish his second Boston Marathon.
J.P. Norden met up with some friends, including Fucarile and Clowery, and brother Paul met up with his girlfriend Webb and Costello. They came by different routes — using a combination of trains, subways, taxis, and cars.
They decided to meet in front of the Forum restaurant on Boylston Street, where they knew Jefferson’s mother and family were tracking his race online on their phones.
Several of them were taken aback by the $25 charge to enter the Forum, so the friends decided to watch from the sidewalk.
When the first explosion hit a block away, J.P. Norden and Clowery were next to each other. Clowery remembers yelling, “Get into the street!” and jumping a guardrail.
He had his hands and feet on the guardrail and was yelling to Webb to jump as well, when the second blast unleashed. J.P. stayed on the ground, helping his brother to hoist Webb over the rail.
Being above-ground likely spared Clowery’s legs, while being on the ground claimed the Nordens’ and Fucarile’s.
The challenges confronting the friends are enormous. Most face months of rehabilitation and the Nordens and Fucarile must learn to walk with prosthetic legs. Guys who did back-breaking work on their feet may need to find new careers.
Some of them had no health insurance and face still-mounting medical bills.
Paul Norden, who obtained insurance while at Beth Israel Deaconess, could be transferred to a rehabilitation hospital this week, and medical staff is debating whether to send him to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston or New England Rehabilitation Hospital in Woburn.
Paul’s main concern was that J.P., who is not yet ready to leave the Brigham, ends up in the same place.
“I have to go to rehab with my brother,” he said.
The Nordens, too, must look for first-floor apartments.
Paul Norden had been living at his mother’s Wakefield home where getting to the third-floor bedroom takes 24 steps; his brother had been living in an attic apartment in Stoneham.
The community of Stoneham and others have stepped in to try to help, setting up funds for the men, some shared and some individual.
The Dockside restaurant in Wakefield, where the Norden brothers often went, held a fund-raiser a week ago for all Stoneham victims.
Clowery said, if need be, he will auction off a signed football he got from the Patriots to help his friends.
Meanwhile, the Nordens have yet to see each other, though Paul says he fantasizes constantly about a Jarrod-style escape to see his brother.
J.P. said he and Paul talk once or twice every day on the phone, and he keeps telling his younger brother to “stay positive.”
They will never forget their first conversation, nearly a week after the Marathon, when Paul’s ventilator tube was finally removed.
His throat, irritated by the tube, was sore and painful. He could barely speak. They told each other, for the first time, that each had lost a right leg.
Paul broke down crying when he recalled on Friday how the conversation ended. “I love you,” he told J.P. “We’ll get through this no matter what.”