One year ago today, Marc Fucarile stood among thousands of other spectators near the Boston Marathon finish line. When two bombs turned one of the most celebrated 400 yards in road racing into a war zone, Fucarile's life changed forever.
The Reading, Massachusetts-area roofer was one of the felled, his injuries devastating. Fucarile, 34, suffered severe burns, shrapnel wounds, ruptured eardrums, fractured legs and feet, and a broken spine. He eventually lost his right leg from the knee down, underwent over 50 surgical procedures, and remained in the hospital longer than any other Marathon survivor. One hundred days after that fateful afternoon on Boylston Street, he left Spaulding Rehab Center and started the challenge of rebuilding his life—one that included a fiancée and a young son.
But Fucarile was determined to return to normal life, and in between the endless hours of rehab, the non-stop media and charity calls, and the fitting of not one, but two prosthesis for his amputated right leg, he did something last December that most thought he'd never do again: He went skiing.
As part of a partnership between Spaulding, Disabled Sports USA, and Warfighter Sports, Fucarile and all of the bombing survivors were invited on an all-expense-paid ski trip to Breckenridge, Colorado, as part of the Hartford Ski Spectacular. When the invitation came, he didn't hesitate to accept.
"Marc's just a really positive guy that wants to move forward," says Kirk Bauer, executive director of Warfighter Sports, Vietnam veteran, and fellow amputee that credits skiing and climbing with turning his life around. "The thought of skiing after an event of this magnitude is a little difficult to fathom, so we wanted to eliminate any obstacles that would keep people from doing it."
For Fucarile, that meant learning to use a sit monoski with his fiancée, Jennifer, and his 5-year-old son, Gavin, by his side. He was one of nearly 800 participants and volunteers at this year's Ski Spectacular, hitting the snow just nine months after the bombings. It was just a small step on his long road to recovery, but a reaffirming one for a man that has been piecing his life together one tiny victory at a time.
In all honesty, it's hard to track Fucarile down these days—maybe that's a testament to a guy who refuses to sit still, no matter what the circumstance. On top of participating in several marathon anniversary events and the looming certainty of future surgeries, Fucarile is prepping to get married in Fenway Park on April 17, and is essentially conducting a full-blown media tour from his home. POWDER got 10 minutes with the inspirational Bostonian in between interviews with Japanese and English newspapers to ask about his return to snow and what it meant to him and his family. Here's what he had to say:
POWDER: It's been great to see everybody's recovery, but to see that you are already back on snow, it's pretty incredible.
Fucarile: Yeah, I did more skiing than I did walking. I actually think I skied before I walked.
Did you even think skiing again would be a possibility?
I used to ski, you know, before I got in a car accident in high school and ruined my knees. But now I'm like, 'hey I don't have any knees, so let's go skiing.' [Laughs].
No, but seriously, I saw this as an opportunity with my son and my fiancée. She skis and I used to ski and I figured it was something our family could do together.
What'd it mean to be out there on snow with them?
It meant the world. It meant the world to show my son that his dad can ski, that we can still do these fun things. For him to see me skiing, and have him skiing right there with me—it was huge. It was really awesome.
Was he pretty excited?
Yeah, he was. He had a rough breakdown during the week—he made a comment about things being more fun when I had two legs—but I think he was more tired than anything.
In the end he loved it, though. We were out there skiing on the mountain together, racing, and I was coaching him. I was skiing on a sled and he was going straight, so I told him to go right, and then left—zig-zag down the mountain. So I got that opportunity to coach him and he listened very well, he followed me.
Do you think skiing is something you'll keep doing?
Yeah, I'll definitely take him skiing at least once a year when things calm down. This winter has been so crazy with my surgeries. I had surgery on January 3rd and I was still recovering when I was up there skiing. I had just had my leg amputated not even a month before. I still had stitches.
What was it like to learn a whole new sport? Was it a steep learning curve?
I picked up on it instantly. Midway through my second run I was independent; I didn't have a tether or anything. I understand the concept of the sled, how it works, the concept of the ski, and I had great coaches.
Clearly the rehab process is not an overnight thing, but what do you think getting out on the ski hill has done for your recovery?
It definitely helped mentally. More the reason I did it though was to show other people that they can do it, too.
Was there anything else about the experience that was memorable to you or something you weren't expecting?
I knew I'd get there eventually, I just didn't realize that it would be that quick—I surprised myself. I'm just thankful for the people at Disabled Sports USA. There was a moment going down the hill, when I was moving, I mean really moving, hitting left and right, left and right—just ripping it. It really felt like I was on two skis, that I was standing up skiing again, it was crazy. Just being out there was a whole different thing. It was literally like an out-of-body experience—I loved it.