Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes are the kind of couple who look like they should be models for wedding cake toppers. They smile each time they look at each other and share a wicked sense of humor. When they talk, they are so in synch they never interrupt the other.
Most of that is love. Some of it comes out a shared experience that no single person or couple should have to face. Kensky and Downes were a newlywed couple in April 2013 when took a walk to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and were caught in a bombing.
One of the two bombs detonated at the race that day ripped through the legs of the couple. Despite having both of her legs injured, Kensky, a nurse, was able to give her husband enough attention that he survived until medical assistance arrived.
In a situation that can only be described as staggering odds, Kensky and Downes both lost their left legs bellow the knee. Eventually, Kensky would have to have her right leg amputated, too.
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Their story is included in the new feature film “Patriots Day” from director Peter Berg. It looks at the manhunt that followed the attacks. Mark Wahlberg and John Goodman star.
The injuries would have been horrific enough if only one of them had incurred them. The fact they both were hurt magnified the situation 10 fold. Today, they can say without pause that they understand what the other is going through.
“There are times when we wish there was one healthy body in our house that could do things,” Downes says. “But, then there is this attempt to be empathetic toward each other because we can draw on our own experiences. For us, this is the bedrock experience of our marriage.”
The couple had only been married seven months at the time of the bombing, but they had known each other for six years. Kensky, a 1999 graduate of Sacramento’s St. Francis Catholic High School, says that when her depression would get the worst, she would just keep pushing.
“I would get up and try again,” Kensky says. “I did that because of all the people who cared about us. If they cared so much to rescue us and save our lives. All the work in the hospital. All the meals that have been brought to us. The least I could do was get up the next day and try again.”
Her husband says being able to support each other, the care and attention they got from family, spiritual strength and an endless stream of medical people and experts have helped them get through the ordeal. The pair have been living in the Maryland area so Kensky can get medical treatment at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Because she isn’t part of the military, it took a special order for her to get treated at the facility that is known for its work with lost limbs.
I think it’s important we think of these people around the world, not as victims of violence, but ambassadors for peace.
The most difficult time for the couple is when they both get down and frustrated.
“We are in that swamp together and yet we still have to keep pushing through so much of our physical and mental health care,” Downes says.
Berg calls their years of recovery a testament to the spirit of everyone who was touched by the incident.
“People like Jessica and Patrick, the survivors of this tragic incident, are the heart of the story. Both showed extraordinary courage,” Berg says.
Actors Rachel Brosnahan (“House of Cards,”) and Christopher O’Shea (“Madame Secretary”) play the couple. Brosnahan says what sets the young couple apart and makes their story so compelling is their unflagging support for one another.
Downes has healed enough he competed in the 2016 Boston Marathon. He wasn’t motivated by medals or better times. It’s a matter of reminding people of the real truth behind such attacks.
“When we see the news that another attack has happened, I think it’s important we think of these people around the world, not as victims of violence, but ambassadors for peace,” Downes says.