Sunday was one of the "good days" for Boston Marathon bombing victim Marc Fucarile and his family.
He returned to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, a place where he used to visit with his dad when he was younger.
Auto racing and a love for NASCAR is in his DNA.
Fucarile's father Ed was known "The Frogman" and raced at short tracks in Lee, Hudson and Epping across the Granite State. Ed would race on Saturday night at Star Speedway in Epping and then he and Marc would pack their equipment and drive over to Loudon, arriving in the wee hours of the morning.
"We'd camp outside the track. Party a bit and then get up a bit late on Sunday and watch the races."
Thanks to NASCAR and the people at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Fucarile, his fiancee Jen Regan, their son, Gavin, and several of his family members were guests of honor at Sunday's Sylvania 300 Sprint Cup race.
Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag, but Marc Fucarile won the day. Fucarile attended the pre-race driver's meeting and was given a standing ovation by everyone in the room, including Sprint Cup drivers and crew chiefs [photo at right courtesy of NHMS]. His dad told Dale Earnhardt Jr. about the time he met Dale Sr. at Hudson Speedway back in 1981. That earned Ed a big hug from the son of The Intimidator.
They left the race after about 200 laps because Marc Furcarile was exhausted. The fatigue is understandable. Furcarile was the final bombing victim released from the hospital, leaving after 100 days on July 24. He spent 45 at Mass General and 55 at Spaulding Rehabilitation Center
The names of those lost in the bombings or subsequently killed [allegedly] by the Brothers Grim are etched into the minds of Bostonians like Paul Revere, John F. Kennedy and Ted Williams.
Many survivors have received well-earned notoriety for their heroism and stories of struggle and triumph.
Fucarile's family didn't get to share his story until the Marathon Bombing slipped as a trending topic on websites, newscasts and social media.
He lost his right leg in the blast, has since had more than 40 surgical procedures, lost the hearing in his left ear, suffered 2nd and 3rd-degree burns throughout his body, carries shrapnel from the bomb blasts near his heart and bears all the mental and emotional scars you would expect anyone to bear who remembers much of what happened after a pressure cooker bomb exploded feet away from him on Boylston Street at 2:49 p.m. on Marathon Monday.
He, Jen and Gavin carried the "Boston Strong" flag out onto the ice before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals. But his extended hospitalization denied his story much of the spotlight others received.
"They were regular guys, no egos. They were very sweet. Down to earth. We talked about our families. They kept telling me how honored they were to meet me. That was crazy. It was an honor to meet them," Furcarile told the OBF blog via phone as Jen drove him and their son home from New Hampshire to their apartment in Reading. "Bobby Allison came all the way over from the other side of the track to make sure he met us."
Fucarile said Johnson, who ran a half-marathon a week before the Daytona 500 this past February, told him he plans to run the Boston Marathon in 2014.
"NASCAR is different than going to other games. They're a family. I love NASCAR because I love faith in America. I love America, I love Americans. I love our flag. They support faith, and God . . . thatís the fuel of the USA. I know Jen feels that same way," he said. "You felt the generosity and kindness of everyone, the people were phenomenal."
Despite their long and wonderful day at Loudon's aptly-named for them "Magic Mile," Fucarile's family had one more stop to make on the way home for Gavin - one at Target to get him Hot Wheels cars featuring his new favorite NASCAR drivers.
"They wanted $70 for the large models. That's too much money."
Although he's no longer hospitalized, his days are filled with trips to the doctor, rehab visits, skin grafts, or various procedures. Fucarile said the good days are finally starting to outnumber the bad ones.
"People always ask me 'How's it going?'" he said. "They say, 'Oh, you look great.' I wish I felt great. There are some bad days, some good days, you just keep going. The toughest thing is how exhausting it gets and how fast it happens. Today was really awesome. We had a blast."
There was no pun intended.
The nights, however, are always bad. Sleep is elusive because of an unholy mix of pain, medication and thoughts of both the bombing and its never-ending aftermath. "I never lost consciousness, but I did go in and out," he recalls. "I was awake most of the time. I remember people talking to me, saying 'holy s--t, heís on fire.' That freaked me out."
Fucarile said he remains overwhelmed and grateful for the support he's received from countless strangers, his employer [Marshall Roofing and Sheet Metal of Peabody] who paid his salary through July until Fucarile asked them to stop, his friends, his family and, of course, Jen. She has had to quit her nursing job to be a full-time caregiver to Marc, not to mention a full-time mom to Gavin, who turned six on September 19, the same day his dad turned 35.
"Everythingís on her," he said. "Giving him a bath, I canít do that. Giving him a shower, I cant do that. It's hard. She takes car of that. She takes care of everything. When we get home. It will be enough for me to get into the house. She has to carry the groceries to the second floor." [The elevator in their second-floor apartment had been out of order, but was working again Sunday night.]
Money is an issue he isn't hesitant to discuss. Nor should it be. A Byzantine system to determine payouts from The One Fund has generated plenty of controversy. Fucarile received $1.1 million from The One Fund because he was single amputee. Double-amptuees, along with victims who suffered major brain damage and the families of those who died, received $2.2 million. By the time the fate of his remaining leg is determined, the fund's funds will likely be exhausted.
"That's going to take a year's worth of treatment to determine if it can remain functional but that falls out of the guidelines set by the Fund. And in a year, there's not going to be any money" he said. "I'm going to fight to keep it, but I may end up losing the leg anyway."
His sister has set up a GoFundMe.Org page, which had received $176,963 from 1,813 people in four months as of Sunday. The sale of "Boston Strong" t-shirts through Boston Barstool Sports generated a $240,000 donation in August, which Fucarile says will be used toward the purchase a handicapped-accessible home, "taking a huge weight off my shoulders."
"Apartment building living is something I donít like," he added. "We're always hearing the noise downstairs and smelling what others are cooking."
The inherent injustice involved in a process like determining how The One Fund disperses its millions is not lost on Fucarile.
"Itís a shame because thereís [seven-year-old Jane Richard], who lost her leg," he said. "She got same about as me. Iím 35. She has 30 more years to go of prosthetics before she gets to where I am . . . We have to get new ones every three years. I had my childhood, she doesnít. How do you make sense of that?"
There are so many acts of kindness from the people he calls "two-legged freaks" and gratitude generated when considering those worse off than he. Several family members of slain MIT police officer Sean Collier, whose brother Andrew works for Hendrick Motor Sports, were also guests at Sunday's race. "My family went through hell, my brother lost 30 pounds due to all of the stress, and I'm still here. They lost Sean. I can't imagine that," he said "I'm happy to be here. I can see my fiancee and my son every day."
Regan said in July Rolling Stone magazineís decision to put the youngest of the Brothers Grim on its cover ďdisgusting.Ē Fucarile said Sunday "it was a poor choice. They made a mistake. I hope they felt it in their pockets."
Planning for the future, including their wedding, remains several laps away for Marc and Jen. "We're working on it. But Iím in the hospital every day. My hearing is kaput. I canít look go for an hour to look at any places," said Fucarile, who has five more surgeries scheduled.
He also gets inspiration from the veterans and Wounded Warriors, many of whom are amputees, he's met during his rehab. "They're animals."
And their challenges snuff out any moments of self-pity.
"Itís a sin. Theyíve gone to war, but sometimes they have to wait a year and a half for a surgery that I can get in a day. Those veterans inspire me, those people who I hang out with. When I'm with them, I canít even think about having a bad days."
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