BOSTON (AP) — A new documentary about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings chronicles the long road to recovery for many of the survivors still struggling with physical and emotional wounds.
“Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing” focuses on the stories of three families who had all been spectators near the finish line when two pressure cooker bombs detonated: a young newlywed couple, a mother and daughter and two brothers.
The nearly two-hour film, which had its Boston premiere last week, airs on Monday on HBO.
Filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg say they set out to give an unflinching look at the ups and downs of long-term recovery from the attack, which killed three people and injured nearly 300 others.
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“We felt a huge responsibility to tell a broad picture of the survivors’ story,” said Stern. “Many of the survivors feel this global relationship with other survivors of terrorist attacks. That if there’s some way their recovery can help others going through something similar, they want to do it.”
Patrick Downes, one of the survivors spotlighted in the documentary, says it wasn’t always easy having the filmmakers along for the journey
“You have to be incredibly vulnerable during the worst moments of your life and share with people all the struggles involved,” Downes said. “We thought this was an important story to tell and we accepted that responsibility in the hopes that it represented not only our experience but the experience of a lot of other people.”
The 33-year-old Cambridge native and his wife, Jessica Kensky, had each lost part of a leg in the blast, but their recovery over the next three years couldn’t be more different.
Downes was able walk again using a prosthetic leg and eventually ran the 2016 Boston Marathon.
It’s a bittersweet moment that closes the film because while Downes seems to triumph over his injuries, Kensky continues to battle through multiple surgeries and setbacks.
The film also shows how post-traumatic stress still haunts those who weren’t seriously injured or even there on marathon day.
Bombing survivor Kevin Corcoran suffers superficial physical injuries, but is consumed with guilt because he had urged the family to move closer to the front of the crowds. His wife ended up losing both of her legs and his daughter suffered serious leg injuries in the blast.
Another mother, Liz Norden, wasn’t at the race but her two adult sons were spectators. They both lost legs in the blast.
Two years after the attack, in 2015, Norden has a harder time moving on than her sons, attending nearly every day of the death penalty trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the youngest of two brothers that perpetrated the attack.
“Each one of them has experienced the impact in different ways. Everyone plays out the ‘what ifs,'” said Stern, the filmmaker. “I didn’t realize that, three years out, this, in many ways, is the hardest thing to get at — the mental pain.”
Follow Philip Marcelo at twitter.com/philmarcelo. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/philip-marcelo