Every time Roseann Sdoia comes home, she must climb 18 steps – six stairs into the building, another 12 to her apartment. It is an old building in Boston’s North End, with doors that are big and heavy, not an easy place for an amputee to live.

When she left the hospital, a month after the Boston marathon bombing, she had a choice: She could find another place to live, one more suitable for someone who wears a prosthetic that replaces most of her right leg. Or, she could stay.

“Early on when all this happened, so many people were telling me to move out of the city and move out of my apartment because of the stairs and I don’t have an elevator and parking is not very convenient,” she recalls. “But I have been able to get past all of that.”

In that, she mirrors Boston itself.

In the course of a year, limbs have been replaced, psyches soothed, the wounds sustained in a moment at the marathon’s finish line have at least begun to heal. At the same time, a city shaken by an unthinkable act of terrorism has returned to its usual rhythms – sadder, but some say stronger, as well.

“I have to tell you, honestly, Boston is a better city now than it was before,” says Thomas Menino, who, as Boston’s mayor, left a hospital bed where he was recovering from leg surgery to rally his city after the bombings. “People learned how to deal with each other, they had to deal with a tragedy.”


Not that it’s been easy. Three people were killed that day, and more than 260 were injured, and the legacy of trauma and lost limbs remains – as does the shock of having endured a terrorist attack on Marathon Monday. Nor can Bostonians forget the fear that gripped a city locked down in the midst of a manhunt.

But Boston has been able to get past all of that. Copley Square is no longer littered with impromptu tributes to the dead and injured; they’re now on display in at the Boston Public Library.

The Red Sox – who wore “Boston Strong” patches through their epic ride to the championship last year – are playing ball again. “The city really came together after the Red Sox won the World Series,” says Mary Ellen Cahill, of Canton. “It was such a moment of unity and togetherness … .

“We are unified, not terrified.”

Roseann Sdoia is 46 years old, a vice president of property management for a Boston development company. She is a cheerful woman; she smiles broadly when she arrives at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown for physical therapy.

“It’s just my nature,” she says. “I’m not a negative person. I’m not a Debbie Downer.”


Still, she says, she cries every day.

“What is sinking in is this is for life – that it is how I have to live, how I have to walk. What is sinking in is that life has changed,” she says, her face awash with tears.

Sdoia is a runner, but she did not take part in the marathon. She was at the finish line on April 15, rooting for friends in the race, when the second bomb went off. Aside from her leg injury, she suffered hearing loss. She was with four girlfriends; three of them lost hearing, and the fourth was unscathed.

“It was virtually they were on one side of the mailbox and I was on the other,” she says. “So if I stood on the other side of the mailbox, I wouldn’t have been injured.”

She goes to Charlestown twice a week for hour-long workouts with the physical therapist, and then she hops on the rowing machine to build her endurance. She aims to run again, a hobby she loved doing before her injury.

“Other than losing the bottom of my right leg, I’m still me,” she says. “I haven’t changed, I am still the same person I was before.”


And yet, so much has changed. She had to take more leave from the job she loved. Winter, and snow, were tough to handle. She’s had to learn how to tackle daily tasks differently.

“You don’t just jump in the shower,” she says. “I have to make sure I have everything in the bathroom to put my leg back on.”

Talk with other survivors and you’ll hear the same story. Marc Fucarile, a 35-year-old roofer from Stoneham, also lost his right leg from above the knee; he has shrapnel in his heart, and still could lose his left leg. He was the last victim to leave Massachusetts General Hospital, 45 days after the bombings.

“Everything has changed,” he says. “How I use the bathroom, how I shower, how I brush my teeth, how I get in and out of bed.”

His 6-year-old son, Gavin, does not always understand. “Gavin is like, `Hey, you want to go out and play?’ and I’m like, `There’s a foot of snow. I can’t do snow. We’re not going out and playing right now, sorry buddy.’ It breaks my heart.”

He, too, has been unable to return to work. He’s received $1.1 million from the One Fund to pay for his medical needs, and a fund has raised $184,000 for other uses (he still has huge out-of-pocket expenses – he had to move to a more expensive apartment, buy a bigger car to accommodate his needs).


But he is adamant that he will recover and return to a full and active life; his focus is on others. He wants to be a motivational speaker and to set up a fund to help those who have suffered similar injuries, no matter the circumstances. He has been inspired by the generosity he has seen over the past year.

“It’s been mind-blowing. … All these good people who stepped out, who helped us, helped so many of us,” he says. “All the victims I know feel the same way. Complete strangers who give, when they don’t have.”

In the first three months after the explosions, the One Fund collected nearly $61 million in donations. In the next five months, another $12 million in contributions came in.

This bigheartedness was mirrored by a sort of proud defiance, exemplified by “Boston Strong.” The amount of merchandise bearing the slogan was astonishing.

“In the immediate aftermath of the bombings, it became a peaceful mantra that people could repeat and believe in. And if they said it enough, tweeted it enough, hash-tagged it enough, it would actually be true,” says Dan Soleau, a brand development manager for Marathon Sports. The Marathon Sports store is on Boylston Street, where the bombs exploded.

Jennifer Lawrence, a social worker at Boston Medical Center, says the emphasis on “Boston Strong” had other unhappy consequences.

“A lot of it is portraying that people are so resilient and so strong. While that is absolutely true, we are neglecting that people still have hard days,” she said. “These are very long lasting impacts, and that’s important for people to remember.”

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