WBUR Oral History Project: Jimmy Plourde
Interviewed by: Jayne Guberman
Date: December 19, 2013
Location: Roslindale, MA
Recorder: Joanna Shea O'Brien
Photo: Jimmy Plourde (Photo by Michelle Plourde)
Jimmy Plourde, a Boston firefighter stationed in Jamaica Plain, describes himself as “born into” firefighting. He describes typical situations that he and his fellow firefighters deal with, including accidents, fires, and health emergencies.
In the past Jimmy has served as an EMT at the Boston Marathon. This year he was part of the fire detail, stationed between Arlington and Dartmouth Streets. When the first bomb exploded, Jimmy immediately ran down the marathon route, ducked beneath the railings, and emerged to a scene of utter devastation. He quickly helped Bruce Mendelsohn tie a tourniquet around the leg of a young woman, Victoria McGrath. He then scooped her up and ran towards the medical tent – an image caught by a photographer that became one of the iconic photos of the bombings. Returning to the scene, he helped as many people as he could.
Jimmy notes that it took eighteen minutes to clear the scene, a rapid response that has become a case study in the first responder world. Jimmy discusses what the firefighters were doing in the hours that followed, including a meeting of first responders convened by the Critical Incidents Stress Management Team, a peer network, to talk about what had happened. At the fire station in Boston’s theater district, they all stripped down and sat in a circle discussing their experiences.
Jimmy describes the personal impact of these events: his changing views of the iconic photo that made him an instantly recognizable symbol of first responders; his struggles to cope with the onslaught of resulting media attention; his emotional reunion with Victoria McGrath, which gave him living proof that he had made a difference; and a sense of intense gratitude coupled with personal vulnerability, knowing that his family had been standing at the finish line till moments before the first bomb exploded.
Jimmy also discusses the importance of the ongoing support that he and other first responders received. “Boston Strong,” he felt, helped bring the community as a whole together emotionally. Regarding the bombers, he feels they accomplished nothing other than strengthening the community and bringing it together.
Audio Clip 1
Jimmy Plourde describes picking up an injured woman and bringing her to EMS.
Audio Clip 2
Jimmy talks about reconnecting with those who were injured.
Audio Clip 3
Jimmy talks about meeting Victoria after the marathon at the hospital and what it means to have met someone he helped.
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