“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.”