Bernie Sanders to Boston Marathon bombing survivor: ‘You’re a symbol of courage’

Bernie Sanders speaks during a CNN town hall Wednesday at the Derry Opera House.
Bernie Sanders speaks during a CNN town hall Wednesday at the Derry Opera House. –Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Denise Spenard was cheering on runners at the 2013 Boston Marathon when she heard an explosion, then felt a pain in her side and was thrown to the ground.

Fortunately for the Manchester, New Hampshire resident, doctors were able to remove the shrapnel. The experience motivated her to run the marathon the following years, finishing in under four hours in 2015.

Spenard was present at CNN’s Democratic presidential candidate town hall forum Wednesday night in Derry, New Hampshire and had a question for Bernie Sanders about terrorism.

“I’m a fortunate survivor from the Boston bombing and it has changed my life,’’ Spenard introduced herself, adding that she planned to run in the marathon this year with her husband.

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She had to pause, as Sanders and the entire Derry Opera House audience applauded.

“My kids are going to be out there spectating and I can only think about their safety while they’re out there,’’ Spenard said. “So my question to you is what are your plans keeping us safe from terrorism?’’

Sanders first said “we have to crush ISIS,’’ but “learn the lessons of the Iraq War,’’ plugging his 2003 vote in opposition to the operation.

“We have to be smart and that means we have to work with a large coalition led by on-the-ground Muslim troops,’’ Sander said. “King Abdullah of Jordan made the point; it will be Muslim troops who destroy ISIS, because ISIS has hijacked their religion.’’

Sanders said it was the job of the United States and its European allies to support those troops and improve internal intelligence and communications between allies. Sanders added that the United State should accept refugees from the Middle East, but with “thorough’’ screening and better coordination between government agencies.

“Your concerns — and again, thank you,’’ Sanders finished his answer. “You’re a symbol of courage that you went through that horror in Boston and you’re going back and you’re running again. Thank you for your courage.’’

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Later during the town hall, another audience member asked Sanders if his age was a concern. The 74-year-old Vermont senator said he was not concerned, crediting some of his good health to his career as a long-distance runner when he was younger.

But “not quite the marathon runner,’’ he added, pointing back to Spenard in the crowd.

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