CAMBRIDGE - On crutches and pain medications, Ayer native Brittany Loring says every day she's getting better. Loring is now recuperating at home in Cambridge following three surgeries for serious leg injuries sustained in the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing.
That day was also Loring's 29th birthday. Loring and fellow Boston College MBA candidate Liza Cherney were downtown to meet a friend running the race. The three were to meet at the finish line on Boylston Street.
"We saw her run by," the restaurant they were sitting in. Loring and Cherney left to move towards the finish line.
"We never got to the finish line," said Loring.
The two passed the Boston Public Library on Boylston Street. They were standing by grandstands filled with spectators when the first of two bombs detonated.
"I fell to the ground. The force pushed me down," said Loring. "The moment I could get up, I said 'I need to get out of here."
In the ensuing chaos, the friends were separated. Cherney was also seriously injured in the blast.
Loring ran off Boylston Street to Exeter Street. There she noticed that her left leg was torn open.
Three men came to Loring's immediate assistance. They were joined by a Waltham woman who talked to Loring and applied pressure to the wound in an effort to stop the bleeding.
"She was really helpful," recalled Loring. "They [the three men] we were impressed with her. She was right in my face, which was what I needed because I was starting to freak out."
Throughout the trauma, Loring never lost consciousness. Loring was transported to Boston Medical Center and would eventually undergo three surgeries on her left leg. Among other injuries, Loring also suffered a serious wound to her left leg and a fractured skull.
One BB pellet will remain lodged in Loring's leg. Meanwhile, two BBs were successfully removed from Loring's head and a third was removed from Loring's neck.
It's been reported that the bombs were loaded with BBs and other small pieces of metal that shredded people and things in the surrounding blast zones.
Until this past week, it was all too raw for Loring to discuss publicaly.
"I wasn't ready to talk about it before," said Loring on Sunday. "I didn't have as much energy. Every day I feel better which is good."
Regarding the non-stop media coverage of the attack, Loring says, "I'm trying not to watch it. I refused to watch it. I don't want to see any of the pictures of the suspect's face. My focus is on my recovery. I need to keep myself calm in order to recovery properly."
But publicity has also been helpful in the effort by friends to raise money for Loring's recovery. As of Monday, more than $82,000 has been raised. Donations may be made to benefit Loring at www.GiveForward.com.
"It's really amazing," said Loring. "Alot of people have stepped forward- people I don't even know, and family and friends I haven't seen in a long while."
Appearing on Piers Morgan Live on CNN last Thursday, Loring's fiancée John McLoughlin said his bride-to-be is determined to finish her graduate studies. The couple is to wed this fall.
Putting it in the big picture, the Boston Marathon attack "is a little bit of a blip," said McLoughlin. "Life goes on."
Loring shares her fiancée's approach. They choose to focus on the future instead of dwell on the past.
McLoughlin "stayed at the hospital every night," said Loring. "He's been great."
Other key lifelines have been parents Dan Loring and Pam Lambert-Loring, sisters Alyssa, 28, and Amanda, 23. Despite her parents' divorce, Loring said her family remains close.
"Everyone definitely came together for this."
FROM 6,500 MILES AWAY....
"I know my kids," said Brittany's father Dan Loring. "We're on the same page all the time. I live for my kids, as most parents do."
On vacation in Mexico, Loring's smart phone started buzzing wildly on that day with news about the bomb blasts in Boston. Loring began texting the family, starting with Brittany.
At first, Brittany didn't answer her father's text message. Later she texted only "Hurt - at Boston Medical Center."
Loring tried to text McLoughlin, who was at the Red Sox game. However, cell phone service was shut off in the wake of the attack.
Loring later learned that McLoughlin "commandeered" a car to get to Boston Medical Center. Luckily, the car was driven by a Boston University medical student who understood the gravity of the situation, said Dan Loring.
Then Dan Loring texted Pam Lambert-Loring and asked, "Brittany's hurt. How hurt is she?"
Pam Lambert-Loring didn't know what he was talking about. "I texted back 'What do you mean?' I'd just sung Happy Birthday to her. He just texted back 'explosion."
The family began to congregate at Boston Medical Center, which was in lock-down mode. For the first five hours after the attack, no information was provided on patients' conditions.
To the collective occupants of the waiting room, staff announced that none of the victims brought to Boston Medical Center were in fatal condition. Lambert-Loring said that announcement stuck with her as "pretty amazing."
Brittany's ICU nurse had battlefield experience and tried to brace Lambert-Loring for her first sight of Brittany following the attack. "She started to explain Brittany's wounds to me. It was like she was in a war."
"When I saw my daughter, I was relieved she was alive and shocked at the number of injuries she had," said Lambert-Loring. "I'm really grateful she didn't lose any limbs. I saw the agony those families were going through."
McLoughlin and Lambert-Loring remained bedside. "When they're hurt, you hurt," said Lambert-Loring.
Flying in on a 14-hour "red eye" flight from Mexico, Dan Loring arrived at the hospital the next morning. He recalled, "As soon as I touched Brittany's hand, it was like 'Daddy's here.' She just closed her eyes."
Brittany Loring is a 2002 graduate of the Bromfield School in Harvard, and a 2006 graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. While she hasn't lived in Ayer since age 22, she calls Ayer home.
All agree- the family is looking ahead to a busy and positive year.
"Right now, they're planning on going forward with their plans," said Lambert-Loring."
That includes Brittany's attaining her law and MBA degrees from Boston College, and a September 21 walk down the aisle for Brittany Loring and John McLoughlin.
"She's a determined girl," said Lambert-Loring.
Instead of gifts or flowers, the family asks that donations be made to either www.GiveForward.com in Brittany Loring's name, or via check to: Recovery Fund for Brittany A. Loring, Fidelity Bank, 9 Leominster Connector, Leominster, MA 01453.
Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.