Love and life after the Boston Marathon bombing

A book signing at Island Bound
Sat, 10/07/2017 - 7:00am

Perhaps the most shocking thing about Roseann Sdoia’s story is that so many more people have shared similar life experiences since she was injured four and a half years ago in the Boston Marathon bombing. The conversation she was having with The Block Island Times, about a new memoir she has just published and will talk about at the Island Bound Bookstore, was weighted by the fact it was occurring just a day after the horrific murders and shooting injuries in Las Vegas. 

“My heart really goes out to those people,” she said. Sdoia even downplayed her own experience. “I woke up with one leg. I just woke up this way,” she said. “Those people were terrorized. He perpetrated an act of terror. It will take them a while to realize what happened. It will be a long route. Take one day at a time. You have to focus on yourself. I know we get caught up in the other people’s lives, but you have to take a step back.”

While Sdoia (the ‘d’ is pronounced like a ‘t’) was injured in the Boston Marathon bombing, one will not call her a victim. She has a new life — she married the fireman that helped her to safety that day — and a new book chronicling the remarkable events and the bonds that have been forged among an unlikely group of people after the attack. The book is called “Perfect Strangers: Friendship, Strength and Recovery after Boston’s Worst Day.” Sdoia is coming to the Island Bound Bookstore on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 4:30 p.m. for a book reading and signing.

The idea for the book, she said, began with a remark a co-worker made in the hallway at work. 

“I worked at National Development where I was Senior Vice President of Residential Properties. Started there in 2003, started up their residential department of apartment complexes,” Sdoia explained in an email sent after the conversation. “After April 15, 2013, I went back Oct. 1 and worked there through March 2014 when I realized I needed to focus on me and getting my life back together and couldn’t do both. They allowed me to go on medical leave for a year, [and] in 2015, I decided that I wouldn’t go back. They are an amazing company and I consider many of them very close friends. They were so supportive and still are.”

In the hallway there, the co-worker “saw me and said, ‘It’s crazy, but you’re part of history.’ I said, ‘Oh, my God, you’re right.’” What Sdoia knew is that other people were telling her story for her, and not getting it right. Part of the narrative of “Perfect Strangers” is setting the record straight.

“There are also so many fringe messages to be taken from my situation, and one is definitely overcoming adversity and staying focused.” After she lost her leg, the question was “how am I going to approach this and stay positive? Things can be rough and difficult, but stay positive as much as you can. so much energy is taken up by being negative. It doesn’t make you get to your end goal.”

When asked if the willpower she found within herself was a surprise, Sdoia said, “I don’t believe it came as a surprise. I was always a realist and positive person. I’m not surprised as to how I dealt with it.” But many people have told her that they didn’t think they could survive as well as she has. “I think we all have some hidden self-survival in us and you don’t know how you can survive until it happens,” Sdoia said.

What of course happened is that Sdoia found herself on Boylston Street in Boston on a cool April day, in the same spot that she had watched the marathon for many years. “I had always gone in with my father and sister, or would go with a friend. I’d been going for many, many years, and so if you didn’t go with any friends, you’d see people you knew. It was nothing unusual, a little cool and then I saw two flashes of white light at my feet.”

A stranger, a 20-year old by the name of Shores Salter used his belt as a tourniquet to tie off her bleeding leg, and a police officer, Shana Cottone, and a firefighter, Mike Materia, helped get her to an ambulance. Materia is now her husband, and Cottone and Salter are close friends. These are the “perfect strangers” in the title of the book. And it is their stories Sdoia will tell at Island Bound.