Twenty-year-old Boston bombing victim Victoria McGrath was in a state of hysteria after suffering serious shrapnel wounds near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Her only solace? A young man named Tyler, who helped calm her in the panicked aftermath of the bombing.
“He saved my life,” McGrath said.
At a press conference last week, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick asked for the public’s help in finding the man who had comforted McGrath.
“His name is Tyler. That’s all we know,” Patrick said. “Victoria very, very much wants to thank Tyler personally. So if Tyler is out there and listening, or reading the reports, we would love to hear from Tyler, so that we can connect him to Victoria.”
Tuesday, McGrath got her wish: In an emotional visit, Tyler Dodd met McGrath at Tufts Medical Center, where she is recovering from a shrapnel wound to her leg.
“I’m so thankful,” the Northeastern University student said through tears while the two embraced. “You guys are so brave.”
Tyler isn’t the only one McGrath credits with saving her that fateful Marathon Monday. Firefighter Jimmy Plourde, bystander Bruce Mendelson, and former Navy medic Alicia Shambo, all of whom played a role in McGrath’s rescue, joined in the reunionTuesday.
McGrath told NBC News that she arrived near the finish line about five minutes before the explosions.
“At first I thought it was a celebratory thing,” McGrath said of the first explosion. “But then my leg started getting really hot and everybody started screaming.”
McGrath said she tried to crawl to safety on her elbows, dragging her wounded leg while shielding her face from debris. She remembers crawling into the candy store Sugar Heaven, all the while trying not to look at her injured leg.
“I thought I was going to lose all my blood and die right there,” she said.
That’s when Bruce Mendelson ran to McGrath, grabbed a t-shirt, and tied a tourniquet just below her knee.
“The doctor told me if you hadn’t done that, then I would’ve died,” McGrath told a tearful Mendelson at Tufts Medical Center on Tuesday. “You saved my life. Otherwise, I would’ve bled out because it [the piece of shrapnel] hit the artery.”
After Mendelson fastened the tourniquet, firefighter Jimmy Plourde arrived at the scene and scooped McGrath into his arms—a moment that was captured in what has become an iconic photograph of the Boston tragedy (above).
“She was a brave girl. She wasn’t crying on scene,” Plourde said, but “she was scared.”
Plourde brought her to the medical tent near the marathon’s finish line. “I couldn’t even look around when they brought me to the tent because there were people with open chests…There was just too much blood,” McGrath said. She couldn’t stop screaming; the pain in her leg and the gruesome images she’d just witnessed had become too much.
Enter: Tyler Dodd.
“My name is Tyler, and I need you to be strong,” Dodd said to her.
Dodd then told McGrath that he understood the pain she was experiencing because he was a solider and had been wounded in combat in Afghanistan.
“I trusted him. I didn’t trust anybody else,” McGrath said. “It was his voice. Everybody else was screaming…He was the only person that [made] me feel strong.”
Dodd later told McGrath that he is not actually a veteran and that the wound he showed her is not from Afghanistan. Dodd received mass casualty and first aid training while working on offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
“I don’t mind that he lied to me,” McGrath said. “I would have told him to do it again a second time. It saved my life.”
McGrath is to be released from Tufts Medical Center Wednesday, nine days after the explosion that almost killed her. Despite the extensive nerve damage in her leg, doctors are hopeful that with therapy, McGrath will someday be able to walk without a limp.
“I hope you do make it back to school,” Jimmy Plourde implored her. “Come back to Boston.”
“I will,” McGrath said as Plourde lifted her once again, this time resting her in a wheelchair. “I’m tough.”
Watch the reunion here: