I remember when the photograph was taken. The famous one, I mean. The one of me being rushed from the Boston Marathon bombing without my legs. Only seconds before, a stranger named Carlos Arrendondo had lifted me from the ground, thrown me into a wheelchair, and started running.
There was so much smoke, and so much blood, and then suddenly it was clear, and a man was there, crouching in the road, pointing a camera at us. I thought, Why isn't he helping? People are dying. And then I was in an ambulance, on my way to surgery, and I didn't think about him again.
By the time I regained consciousness two days later, the photograph had gone viral around the world. All my family and friends had seen it. For most of them, including my mom and dad, that's how they found out I was hurt. No information, just an image: my lower right leg gone, my lower left leg stripped to the bone.
There had been a controversy: was the photo too graphic? Was it exploitative? In Boston, friends told me later, everyone was talking about it.
"Did you see the picture?" people whispered to each other. "The one of the man without his legs." The image, in some way, had crystalized the horror and cruelty of the bombing.
Even now, a year later, people ask me about the Wheelchair Photo: what do I think about it? Does it bother me? The honest answer: I don't think about it.
I glanced at the photo once, about a week after the bombing. I knew immediately I never wanted to look at it again. I never have, and I don't think I ever will. I have enough images from that day in my head already. I don't need another one.
Part of me, I guess, wishes the picture had never been taken at all. I wish my mom hadn't seen me that way, because she couldn't find me for hours afterward, and that was cruel. I wish I wasn't the face of the victims – three lost near the finish line and hundreds injured – because then everyone would forget about me, and I could recover in peace, and at my own pace.
But I'm not angry about it. Not at all. I have so much work to do every day to get back to my normal life that I can't afford to be angry, even at the bombers. I can't keep looking backward. I need that energy for other things.
Besides, if that photograph hadn't become iconic, another would have. That's the world we live in. Everybody takes pictures of everything.
A few weeks ago, I met the photographer, Charlie Krupa, for the first time. He works for the Associated Press, and he came to my house to photograph my fiancée and I for an article. The first thing he said to me was, "I’m sorry."
That surprised me. I didn't think he'd feel any guilt or regret, because he hadn't done anything wrong.
I told Charlie not to worry. He was doing his job that day, and he was doing it well. People still write me to say how much the photo meant to them. I told Charlie that I understand now, like I didn't then, that he was helping us that day, in the best way he knew how. He was documenting what happened. He was showing the world the truth – that bombs tear flesh and smash bones – and making the tragedy real.
Besides, the photograph isn't what most people think it is. It's not a picture of the bombing. It doesn't show the explosion, and it doesn't show me being injured. It is a photograph of the rescue.
The story the Wheelchair Photo tells is this: two losers set off bombs, but hundreds of people risked their lives to rush to our aid. The people with me in that picture – Carlos Arrendondo, Devin Wang and Paul Mitchell – aren't the bad guys. They are the heroes. They are saving my life.
If people talk about the photo this year, I hope they remember that. I hope they remember that the man in the wheelchair, the one without the legs: he lived. He has a fiancée and a baby on the way; he’s learning to walk again; he's going to be OK.
I wish I wasn't that man, but not because I wish I wasn't in the photograph. I just wish I still had my legs. But I'm glad people have an image to remind them of the most important lesson from 15 April 2013: that good people will triumph over the cowards and idiots every time.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... year-later