How ad agencies & news organizations recognized Boston bombing survivors
A screengrab from the “One Fund, Many Stories” website.
In recognition of the one-year anniversary of the Boston bombings, advertising agencies and news organizations are finding creative ways to share survivors’ stories.
Hill Holiday, a Boston ad agency, recently created a new Web page for One Fund Boston, a charity that has raised more than $70 million for those affected by the bombings. The website, called “One Fund, Many Stories,” features photos of Boston bombing survivors; handwritten thank you notes that survivors wrote to donors; and videos of victims talking about what they’ve been through and how they’re learning to move on.
The Boston Globe — which just won a Pulitzer Prize for its Boston bombings coverage — reported last week that Hill Holiday has invited survivors to look at a sampling of the estimated 50,000 messages that the One Fund received:
For many survivors, it was the first time they had seen the outpouring of kindness, and they seemed nearly overcome by its scope.
“We’ve learned a lot about how good people are,” said a bombing survivor named Karen, who said in a video that she had received good wishes from people across the country. “The One Fund has been with us every day.”
In July, the fund distributed more than $61 million to survivors, yet donations have continued to come in. The fund now has more than $17 million, and donations are accelerating as this year’s Marathon approaches.
Fund officials expect to make a second round of distributions sometime this summer, and are working with a group of medical advisers to determine the best way to allocate the money. One priority will be helping victims who suffered hearing loss from the attacks, the officials said.
Many news organizations are recognizing those who suffered by publishing strong examples of Restorative Narratives — stories that shows how people and communities are learning to rebuild and become resilient after difficult times.
The New York Times — which also won a Pulitzer for its Boston bombings coverage — published a story earlier this week about two brothers, Paul and J.P., who were injured in the bombings. The Times explained how difficult it’s been for Paul, whose leg was amputated:
“I was in the shower one day and my mother had to come in and help undress me, and that’s wicked hard,” he said. “I really was so depressed, I wish I didn’t live.” Another time he fell in the snow and was so embarrassed that he pretended he was making snow angels and had fallen on purpose. I’m not suicidal,” he said. “I’m happy most of the time. But it’s so frustrating when you can’t do what you want to do. You feel like you’re not even a man.”
In another piece published this week, The New York Times features 16 short personal narratives from bombing survivors. The narratives suggest that, in a culture that is fixated on being happy, we sometimes forget there is a silver lining to suffering. As New York Times columnist David Brooks recently wrote, “people shoot for happiness but feel formed through suffering.”
Boston bombing survivor Katie Carmona told the Times:
It was such a terrible tragedy that sometimes I feel guilty because it was a blessing for me. It made my life more rich, more full. I learned how to appreciate living in the moment. And I learned not to worry and stress about things as much. I don’t let work bother me. I don’t let piddling money issues bother me. It was not even a conscious effort on my part. It just changed my attitude. I was lucky to walk away unhurt.
Demi Clark shared a similar story:
Emotionally, you’re just like a soldier coming home from a war zone. I told myself it’s O.K. to walk into Walmart and check your exits because you want to know the nearest route out, or to close your drapes and not want to see people as you “recover.”
At the end of the day, what choice do we have? I was raised in the military where you are constantly asking, “So what, now what?” You can’t change that it happened. But you can ask yourself what you can take from that experience that is going to be useful or inspiring, and move forward. You can’t dwell on it. You have to have courage and faith. Every time I have taken that attitude, life has worked out really well.
Narratives like these, which reveal hard truths but focuses on resilience and recovery, are important — not just on one-year anniversaries but throughout a tragedy’s aftermath. They have the power to show people and communities what it means to be resilient — and ultimately remind them that they aren’t alone in their struggles.