Paul Norden was sleeping in his room at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on Friday, groggy from painkillers for his amputated right leg, when he heard a rustle of curtains near the door and then, “What’s up kid?”
The voice was achingly familiar. It sounded like his buddy Jarrod Clowery from Stoneham. Norden had last seen his friend as they huddled with his brother and two other boyhood pals near the Boston Marathon finish line, inches away from the second bomb.
It could not be Clowery, though. He was being treated for burns at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, two blocks away, a couple doors down from Paul’s older brother, J.P., who also lost a leg.
Yet from behind the curtain, Clowery emerged, dressed in a hospital gown and smiling mischievously. Another friend had pushed Clowery’s wheelchair from the Brigham.
“Yeah dude, I escaped,” Clowery, who is 35, told his childhood friend. “I had to see you. I had to come.”
Clowery, the Norden brothers, and their tight band of buddies from Stoneham cemented their friendship on fishing trips and work sites, during poker games and by just being together — as they were two weeks ago on Boylston Street, where five of the friends were badly injured. Three had legs amputated. Now they have been drawn closer by the shared nightmare of Marathon Day.
Only Mike Jefferson, another Stoneham buddy they came to cheer at the Marathon, was spared. Now, he keeps constant watch over Paul Norden, sleeping outside his hospital room and bringing him water and snacks.
“He blames himself,” Norden said of Jefferson. “But I told him: It’s not your fault. That bridge has passed. We have to get to a new place.”
They have been through tough times. Most are construction workers and laborers, and their jobs dried up during the recession. They got through it with each other’s help. Now they have been hit harder, and more than ever, they know, they need one another.
The friends are scattered across Boston’s hospitals. Clowery, nursing burn and shrapnel wounds, and J.P. Norden, with several surgeries still ahead, are at Brigham and Women’s. Marc Fucarile, his right leg gone and his left leg fractured, is at Massachusetts General Hospital. James “Bim” Costello is also hospitalized with serious injuries. Paul Norden’s girlfriend, Jacqui Webb, who had serious shrapnel wounds to her legs, was released from Tufts Medical Center last week.
In those first hours after the blasts, when the friends would otherwise have been the first at each other’s bedsides, they lay in their hospital beds, too dazed to know the extent of the others’ injuries. When they did learn, they were too weary to talk on the phone, their fingers too battered for texting, and their minds too clogged with thoughts of how to get through the next minute and the one after that.
Then, as the pain receded, they realized that the blasts also had taken their cellphones, along with phone numbers. In recent days, with new phones purchased and fingers on the mend, calls have been made and words of comfort shared.
One day last week, Clowery went down the hallway to J.P. Norden’s room.
“J.P. tells me, ‘Jarrod, you’ve got nothing to be sorry about. . . . And we’re going to get through it. And I think I am going to be better off than I ever was. I’m going to use this to become better,’ ” Clowery recalled his friend telling him.
“And that’s when I realized: We are crushing whatever little destruction the bombers caused — we are crushing it.”
The friends hail from Stoneham, where the Norden brothers, two years apart and the oldest of five children, were a hub of the friendship circle. The other guys would often pop over to their house, where they called the Nordens’ mother “Ma.”
“They are really all like brothers,” said Liz Norden, who as a single mother struggled to make ends meet by working office and child-care jobs and cleaning houses. Now she spends her days shuttling between her sons’ hospital rooms.
Over the years, the friends have been on construction jobs together. Every year, the group heads to Lake Winnipesaukee for the Ice Fishing Derby.
In Stoneham, a town of 21,000, the friends could be found at Bacci’s, ordering the steak tips in “secret sauce.” More often, they were at each other’s homes.
Some bonds were especially tight. J.P. Norden, 33, became friendly with Fucarile as early as elementary school, as well as Clowery. Paul Norden, 31, was close to Costello through the youth club in Stoneham, and enjoyed hanging out with Jefferson, who later became a Somerville firefighter.Continued...