On April 15, 2013, in what would be the 117th iteration of the Boston Marathon, Jeff Bauman lay on the ground of Boylston Street, missing both of his legs, not knowing whether or not he would survive. Bauman’s legs were blown off by two pressure cooker bombs that shut down the city of Boston.

Three years later, Bauman is alive and sharing his story with people all over the nation.

Bauman came to Fairfield on Wednesday, March 23 to show students how he battled through his injury with the help of his strong support system and a positive outlook on the situation.

“It’s hard, it’s really tough, but you have to keep trucking. Just put your head down and move forward. Time will heal everything,” Bauman said.

According to Director of Featured Artists for the Fairfield University Student Association Rachel Emmanuelle ‘16, FUSA chose to host Bauman because “we thought his message would really resonate with the Fairfield community since many students are from the Boston area. He is a really relatable and down-to-earth person and we thought his speech would be very inspiring.” Emmanuelle added that Bauman’s talk was especially well-received because it happened close to the third anniversary of the bombings.

Bauman was at the finish line of the Boston Marathon waiting for his girlfriend to finish her first marathon when he caught sight of a suspicious looking man wearing a backpack near the finish line.

“All of a sudden this kid bumped into me to my right and I looked at him and he was really odd,” Bauman said. “He wasn’t with anybody, he wasn’t taking any pictures, and we met eyes. I didn’t say anything to him, but he was cutting through the crowd, so I got a good look at him — he had a big backpack.”

Bauman’s knowledge of the man who was later identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ended up being pivotal in the police’s search to identify the suspect. While in the hospital, just days after the bombing, Bauman drew a sketch of the man he saw at the finish line, which helped police to identify and eventually convict Tsarnaev.

Bauman went on to explain the technology behind his prosthetic limbs, saying that while they were expensive, they allowed him to “start walking again, three or four months after. I stood up on a chair and Erin [his wife] gave me a hug and I got to see her eye to eye, and I got to give her a hug.”

He went on to explain that “it was a lot of work just to stand for five minutes, it would kill, so I had to build up and go to [physical therapy].”

According to Bauman, his attitude toward his recovery helped him to survive and maintain a healthy lifestyle today.

“Obviously, everyone has bad days, but I try to just stay positive all the time and look at everything in a positive way — that’s how I stay balanced,” Bauman said. “I’m still here, I might as well make the best of it. I’m not going to let this set me back.”

Bauman added that while “it will be a continuous battle, unfortunately, at least I’m still standing.”

He added that while he has “trouble and gets frustrated with the prosthetics,” he has been persistent in enduring these struggles so far, and refuses to let his disability prevent him from living his life to the fullest.

Bauman also mentioned that his loved ones have played a major role in helping him through his recovery. According to Bauman, his wife was a calming influence throughout his time in the hospital.

“She didn’t leave my side, which was really awesome. She kept me at ease when people were there talking to me,” Bauman said.

Bauman and his wife had their first child a year after the bombing, and Bauman mentioned that while having a daughter has brought more happiness into his life, he was initially nervous about raising a child in his current condition.

“I was just really worried about what kind of dad I was going to be,” Bauman said. He added that he was concerned that his daughter would think less of him for not having two fully functioning legs like all the other dads.

Bauman concluded his talk by discussing the Boston Strong movement, and how it helped him to get back on his feet quickly. For Bauman, the movement pushed him to “get up and show them that they didn’t hurt us at all, they didn’t even make a dent.”

For Kevin Coppinger ‘18, Bauman himself “embodies the idea of Boston Strong. People asked him for an example of a time he got depressed and he couldn’t think of a single example. That’s how positive the guy is.”

Coppinger added that Bauman has turned this tragic experience into an inspirational lesson for others.

“Not only does he look at his misfortune positively, he’s been able to turn it around and make it almost a good thing by sharing his story with others, inspiring them and representing the people of Boston,” Coppinger said.

Freshman Gabriella Minos felt a personal connection to Bauman’s talk. “For me, it was really impactful because I had family that was at the marathon at the time, and I’m also from Boston, so it means a lot. It’s a crazy thing that happened, and hearing about it is really impactful,” Minos said.

While Bauman’s recovery process has been painful, he acknowledged that in the months after the bombing, his story was well-received by the public. He was invited to come on to the rink at TD Garden before a Boston Bruin’s playoff game in April 2013, and he threw the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park in May 2013.

With the help of New York Times bestseller Bret Witter, Bauman has produced a memoir called “Stronger” about his journey to recovery after the bombing. In addition, Jake Gyllenhaal will play Bauman in the movie “Stronger,” which will spotlight Bauman’s story.

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