On April 15th, 2013 as the Boston Marathon runners cleared the finish line on Boylston Street, the first bomb detonated. For many, there was confusion. Was it fireworks? Thirteen seconds later, 200 yards down the road, the second blast hit. Confusion turned to panic for many, but not for all the EMT’s and off-duty medical personnel. They knew exactly what had happened and sprinted toward the sound.
The heroes would arrive on an gruesome scene. There were a lot of lower extremity injuries; a young nursing student was already applying a tourniquet to a man who lost his legs. Others, like Fred Milgrim, had some first aid training and ran into the chaos. On the scene, Fred teamed up with a doctor. Fred’s a big guy, he quickly cut open the wounded’s clothing searching for critical injuries – victims whose circulation and airways were in immediate jeopardy. If he found one, he called the doctor over. The two moved quickly. Nobody knows how many people Fred and the doctor saved that day, neither felt they deserved any recognition at all.
On the other side of the continent, we all sat here at theCHIVE offices gathered around the television watching the news. Graphic images began appearing on the television. The tangled carnage was something we’ll never forget. As the days passed and we learned more about the victims, it would come as no surprise that many were Chivers.
And so began one of the most massive manhunts in US history.
On April 18th, the FBI released photos of the suspects identified as two brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. It would later be revealed that the two terrorists had decided after the Boston bombings to travel to New York to bomb Times Square. The Boston Police Department had other ideas. The terror would end in Boston, now.
One such police officer was MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard ‘Dic’ Donohue. The night the suspects’ names were released, Dic responded to a call for an MIT police officer who had been shot. Richard was one of the first to arrive on the scene. There, Richard would discover that the officer shot was one of his best friends, Sean Collier. The two had met at the Academy and became fast friends. Sean was well-liked by everybody, a genuinely good person. Dzhokhar and Tamerian executed Sean to steal his gun, an unsuccessful effort. Sean had a locking system in his holster.
Almost as soon as Richard arrived on the scene, he heard a new call go out. There had been a carjacking in Watertown, the carjackers were actively shooting at pursuers. Richard grabbed fellow officer Luke Kitto and sped towards the men who had killed his friend.
Dic encountered the terrorists only minutes later and engaged them in a tremendous firefight. 250 rounds were exchanged. Dic was shot, the bullet ripping his femoral vein and severing his femoral artery. In the midst of the firefight, his fellow officers dropped to the ground and made their way to Dic, covering him. Dic was bleeding out fast, really fast. There was no time to wait for paramedics, blood was pouring out of his legs like an open oil can. His fellow officers called the play: They decided to rush Dic to Mt. Auburn Hospital themselves. According to doctors, when he arrived, Richard ” …had lost almost every drop of blood in his body.” Richard had no pulse. He was not expected to live. He needed a miracle.
But the experienced team of medical experts at Mount Auburn were not about to let another officer die that night. 45 excruciating minutes passed as the hospital staff tried to revive Richard, flooding his empty vessels with blood. Richard was in full cardiac arrest. After exhausting every lifeline he had, Richard’s heart began beating again. The doctors had pulled off the miracle he needed.
The extent of his injuries were so grievous that Dic was put into a medically induced coma. But 48 hours later, something strange happened. Despite the heavy sedation, Dic fought his way out of the coma. He was talking and fully aware of his surroundings, but had no memory of the past week of his life. Dic had to be told, once again, that his friend Sean was dead. He relived the death of his buddy all over again.
When Richard heard I was writing this story, he gave his blessing. He doesn’t want a charity campaign or anything fancy like that, but Richard knows that it’s time for the city of Boston to begin to heal. If his story of triumph against all the odds helps others to heal, then maybe his story should be told. Today, Doctors leave Richard’s hospital room shaking their heads. His recovery has been unbelievably fast. Ten days after the incident, with his wife Kim and his 7 month-old son by his side, Richard takes his first steps with the aid of a walker. His road to recovery will be a long one, but with some luck, Dic will make a 100% recovery. Save for one thing: the bullet that struck him will remain forever lodged in his leg.
Dic jokes about that bullet: “The bullet will remain in my leg as it is not obstructing anything or causing any pain. However my wife has informed me the bullet will ultimately cause her the most pain, as I will be using it to get out of things like mowing the lawn, doing laundry, and painting the deck.”
As I wrote the story, Richard wanted more than anything for the name of his friend, Sean Collier, to live on forever. He wanted us all to remember his ultimate sacrifice. It was Sean’s incident that sparked the chain of events that would lead to the killing and capture of two monsters.
But in talking to Richard’s friends at the Department, they wanted to do a little more for their friend who remains in the ICU today. I spoke with Dic’s friend, Officer Steven Guidaboni. He told me the boys at his department wanted to so something special for their good friend…possibly a Chive t-shirt with the proceeds going to help Richard? Great idea. Details below…