WBUR Oral History Project: Victoria McGrath
Interviewed by: Jayne Guberman
Date: November 14, 2013
Location: Northeastern University (Boston, MA)
Recorder: Kristi Girdharry
Special Thanks: To Potoula Tournas, for her help in the pre-interview preparations and for her support of Victoria during the oral history recording process
Update: In March 2016, Victoria McGrath was tragically killed in a car accident in the United Arab Emirates. Priscilla Perez Torres, a classmate, was also killed. Our Marathon offers our condolences and thoughts to the friends and relatives of Victoria and Priscilla during this difficult time.
Victoria McGrath is a Northeastern University student who was critically injured in the attacks. A finance major who grew up in Paris and London, Victoria chose Northeastern for its diverse student body. She attended the Boston Marathon with a close friend and her parents. They met up with the parents’ friends, the Corcorans, in front of Marathon Sports, where they were waiting to cheer for Celeste Corcoran’s sister as she crossed the finish line. Minutes later the first bomb exploded.
Victoria describes her memories of the explosion and its immediate aftermath, when strangers rushed to help her: putting on tourniquets, carrying her to the medical tent, and keeping her calm as medics worked to stabilize her. Alicia Shambo, one of the medics, accompanied her in the ambulance to Tufts Medical Center.
Victoria describes her experiences in the hospital during her first eleven-day stay, and her return to her parents’ home in Connecticut for a prolonged period of recuperation. She endured two further surgeries and intensive physical therapy, as her leg healed and she learned to walk again. She returned to Northeastern in the fall to resume her studies.
Victoria describes the tremendous support she and her family received from people and institutions. She describes the four people who initially saved her life as a second family for her. She also singles out Mayor Menino and other city officials, who created opportunities for the survivors to come together, as well as Northeastern University, which has been a “model institution” in their support. Victoria also notes Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, particularly the importance of their weekly support group that provided an opportunity to be with others who have gone through similar experiences. Victoria also discusses the role of her Christian faith and church community in sustaining her, as well as the Weston, Connecticut community, that has come together to support her and her family.
Victoria received many quilts and blankets as gifts from around the world; one with “Boston Strong” hangs on the wall in her apartment. While she draws strength from seeing “Boston Strong” all around her, she is also aware of what she calls its “frustrating connotations.” Although the survivors have often been held up as exemplars of strength and courage, she explains that they also feel weak at times. She notes that six months is actually a short period in terms of recovery from traumatic injuries. Many survivors are facing more surgeries, some have not yet received their prosthetic limbs, and all are still adjusting to their changed lives.
In spite of these challenges, Victoria recognizes how this experience has forced her to grow. The weakness is temporary, she has learned, but the experiences overall have made her a stronger person. They have also caused her to re-evaluate her goals in life. Rather than going into finance, she now hopes to become a nurse. “I look up to the people who saved me,” she said, “and I would like to be that person some day.”
"Oral Histories: Preserving The Past for The Future" (by Potoula Tournas; digital exhibit about Victoria's oral history that was completed during a Fall 2013 course at Northeastern)
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