The New York Times Takes an Intimate Look at Jeff Bauman
Jeff Bauman became famous because he was photographed during his darkest moment, but since then, we’ve mostly glimpsed his progress during instances of triumph. He met with the man pictured assisting him at the finish line. Together they threw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game. Boston watched him stand up on his new prosthetic legs before a Bruins game.
All these moments have been inspiring to watch. But they also make New York Times reporter Tim Rohan’s lengthy, intimate look at Bauman’s recovery in today’s paper, all the more powerful. Rohan spent months with Bauman, and as you might expect, the transition from average guy to celebrity double-amputee wasn’t all triumph and joy. Rohan details the private, dark times we don’t see in Bauman’s more public appearances.
In one scene, for instance, Rohan describes Bauman’s growing frustration, which he must keep to himself, with the stream of well-wishers who come to his hospital room, making him feel as if he were constantly on display. But the irritation of being a constant focus of attention doesn’t end when Bauman leaves his house:
He packed a baggie of painkillers the day he had his sutures removed and then again a few days later for a friend’s bachelor party. It was an all-day affair at a local gun club. He had never fired a shotgun and was a bit apprehensive about it. But he learned how, and the others wheeled him out between rounds to shoot by himself, all eyes on him. He was a sideshow again. Maybe that would change when he could walk.
Another fascinating through-line is seeing Bauman come to terms with his public profile. “Bauman had recently asked his mother why people so adored him,” Rohan writes. “They respected his bravery, she had said, and he was the face of the tragedy, of those who survived.” And when he met with James Taylor before the Boston Strong concert, the artist guessed that Bauman was probably receiving a lot of money, and advised him, “You should sit back and let people do what they can because it makes people feel good — like they’re doing something.”
These seem like the conversations of someone initially confused or uncomfortable with his newfound status as a hero. But in a video accompanying the print story, Bauman talks a little more confidently about the role he’s taken on in the public consciousness.
“This random act makes a lot of people feel unsafe. And since I’m okay, and I kind of show people that I’m fine and I’m not gonna let this hold me down, people are like, ‘Alright then we’re not gonna let it hold us down either.'” What a guy. Definitely take a few minutes to read this one.