Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sydney Corcoran - In Her Own Words

(Regular readers may recall that I have mentioned Sydney Corcoran previously on this blog. I was reluctant to give out her full name, because I didn't want to feel like I was using that name to get more hits here. Today, that's precisely what I want. It's not for my benefit, but hers.

Sydney has written this account describing some of her experiences during and after the Boston Marathon bombing. It is powerful, moving, and unflinching. She has agreed to let me share it with you, and I am honored to have the privilege.

This is Sydney's story, in her own words. The only changes I have made were to fix a couple of typos. If you find yourself wanting to help her and her family, you can do that at this link.)

April 15th, 2013 by Sydney Corcoran

Everyone was so happy as we cheered on the complete strangers that were running by while waiting for our loved one to cross over the finish line and come back to us. I was trying to see a familiar face on any of the runners but I couldn’t find my aunt just yet. My mother was eager to see her as well; she was using my shoulders for balance as she was trying to pull herself up so she could balance on her tiptoes. My father was right behind us, our family friends were scattered around us. It had the illusion of a beautiful day.

It’s amazing how everything can change from ecstatic and jubilant, to horrifying and gruesome in the matter of mere seconds. The first bomb goes off and everyone is immersed in smoke. Every one of my senses is in use and working in overdrive. I can smell smoke and blood. I can taste the smoke going down my throat and into my lungs. I can see people on the ground but I can’t make out their faces. I can hear screams coming from every angle; each scream being muffled by my perforated eardrums.

I felt the force of the first of two bombs, but I was left standing. I wasn’t lucky enough to walk away unscathed. I felt like half of my right foot was gone. I managed to limp away to a rail. I was clutching onto that rail trying to comprehend what had just happened.

The next thing I know, I’m on the ground laying flat on my back. Men are putting massive amounts of pressure to my thigh and they’re taking off my shoes because they are covered in blood. I lift my head up to look at my thigh and I see something protruding. It’s hard for me to breathe. When I speak, it’s barely above a whisper.

There’s a man with a friendly face that’s holding my hand and telling me to squeeze it. He keeps calling me buddy and tells me I’ll be okay. I’m not sure I believe him. I’m about to be wheeled away on a gurney when he asks if I would like him to stay with me; I say yes. As the people are carrying me towards the medical tent, I think in my head that we’ll be killed by another bomb.

Once in the medical tent, they begin tearing away my clothes and strap an oxygen mask over my face. My entire body feels tingly. I can hear one of the medics say how I’m going white and my lips are purple. I begin to shiver because all warmth is leaving my body. I can hear the medics frantically yelling, “She has a femoral artery break! She has to leave now! There’s no time!”

Once I’m in the ambulance I intermittently close my eyes because the urge to sleep has grown stronger and my will is deteriorating. The ambulance was cut off and the EMT in the back with me is thrown to the front of the vehicle. I was jostled around from the abrupt stop and I feel my warm blood rushing out of my thigh. I don’t think I’ll make it.

In the emergency room, everyone is asking my name and where I’m from and they want me to give them a number they can contact for me. I speak with enormous effort. I ask them when they’re going to put me under, I just want to sleep and not feel the pain. I ask them while on the brink of sobbing if I’ll be able to keep my leg. I also tell them that both of my parents were in the explosion and I don’t know if they are all right.

I could be an orphan. The only person I think I have left is my brother. I want to sob thinking about how my parents could have been violently ripped away from this earth leaving me all alone on this operating table bleeding to death.

When I wake up, I’m intubated and tired. I see my dad and want to ask questions but the tubes prevent me from doing so. I ask for paper and a pen and try to ask him if my mother is alive. He tells me she is alive and in critical condition, he tells me that she no longer has her legs. I feel myself start to cry as I try to write and tell him that I thought that I was an orphan. After he reads what I wrote he begins to sob and kiss my face.

The hospital wanted to bring my mother and I together so they wheeled her bed into my room and next to me. Once we were next to each other we both began to cry and we held each other’s hands.

I didn’t care that my mom had lost both her legs, I wish that I could take away the pain she feels, but I’m just glad she’s alive and that I can still look at her and call her my mother. I know that we both have a long road to recovery.

I now have a hollow hole in my right foot; the bottom of my foot has a crack in it like the sidewalk does. My right calf has two incisions that were made to alleviate pressure because I had suffered from Compartment Syndrome. I have a massive shrapnel wound where a piece of shrapnel entered my thigh and severed my femoral artery. I have two incisions on both of my thighs from the surgeons taking a vein from one thigh and putting it in the other thigh to repair my broken artery. I have two other shrapnel wounds, one on my left lower shin, and the other on the inside of my right thigh.

I’m just glad I’m alive and I’ll still get to go to my senior prom even though it's on crutches and I have to take my Wound Vac so my foot can heal. I still get to see my parents and be able to tell them, “I love you”. In my eyes, every day is a good day to be alive.

© 2013 Sydney Corcoran


  1. I'm here Guidance Counselor and she wrote this to update her college essay as well. Knowing her well.... I cried myself reading, and the colleges we submitted it to were also deeply moved by it. I'm glad she shared it outwardly

    Awesome kid! Strong family !

    Shelby Boisvert

  2. Shelby, thanks so much for the comment. I wept a little as I read it the first time - she really makes you feel it.

    Sydney is a wonderful girl. I keep telling her there are big things in store for her!

    1. This story is unbelievable and I cried. She sounds like a very strong young lady. I wish everyone would read her story and really listen. She and her mom have been through an awful, horrific ordeal but they pulled through and are continuing to get stronger. People need to stop feeling sorry for themselves and reflect on just what Syndey is saying. She will live life with a different meaning now, a meaning that I wish everyone could live by. Yes, she is a wonderful girl!

  3. Sydney, you are a strong and wonderful girl. I am so glad you shared your story - and that I could read it. It is good to hear that you are healing well, and that your parents also survived. My prayers are with you and your mom, and family.

  4. Sydney...You and your mother are somewhere short of miracles. This experience has been tragic for both of you but yet I feel you will take every positive aspect from it to make a difference in this world. Thank you to M/A Com for helping to make the next chapter in your life the best that it can be.

  5. Sydney, I like many others am taken back by your strength and perspective that you have shown to the whole world. I am a U.S. Army war veteran and have been through the similar situations that you endured. Reading your account of what you felt after the explosions brought me back to very specific days during my time in the war. I smelled the same smells and thought the same thoughts. I was not injured as significanyly as you or your mother. My men in my unit were. I remember trying to help them and wondering at the same time if another bomb or bullet was coming for me next. I was trained for those situations and understood that they may happen when I was deployed. As I read your story, all I could think about was your a kid just enjoying your day with your family and you didn't ask for this. I admire your courage and your ability to speak about what happen with such bravery. All my best wishes to you and your mom and your whole family, stay strong.