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Marathon Bombing First Responder Jim McCowan 10 Years Later

April 7, 2023

Jim was working at Boston Children’s Hospital as a cardiac nurse at the time of the marathon bombings.

A number of years later, he joined Tufts Medical Center for anesthesia training and is now with MelroseWakefield Hospital.

Jim McCowan, 39, from Melrose, MA, was looking forward to an enjoyable, fun day on April 15, 2013. He had the day off from his job as a pediatric cardiac ICU nurse, and was looking forward to seeing some friends cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon. He was eating lunch with friends on Boylston St. and was about to pay the bill when the first bomb went off.

"It was a loud noise. I thought it was a cannon for someone finishing," he said. "There was a huge plume of smoke and then the second bomb went off on the other side. At first, I didn't know what to do."

Jim left the restaurant and ran up Boylston St. It was complete chaos. He saw the second bombing site and noticed that no first responders were there yet. He knew he had to stop and help out. He made tourniquets and performed CPR. He checked some victims for a pulse, while providing physical and emotional support to those less seriously injured. When the first responders arrived, Jim gave a report to EMS on what he did and who he was concerned about. Then he walked home and went on with his life. While that day has stayed with Jim for the past decade, it did not affect him in the way you might expect.

"When I think about the horrors from that day 10 years ago, I really don't remember the bad things so much," he said. "What I remember is what thousands of people did that day to help people and support their community."

In the years since the bombings, Jim has felt more compelled than ever to help others and give back. He trained as an anesthesia nurse at Tufts Medical Center, and after working at the Medical Center for a few years, he moved on in his career, ultimately taking a job as an anesthesia nurse at MelroseWakefield Hospital (a Tufts Medicine hospital), where he lives and was born.

Jim always jogged and went for runs to stay in shape, but after the bombings he began to use running more as a stress-reliever and a way to cope with everyday life. He ran the Boston Marathon in 2014 for Boston Children's Hospital and again in 2017 for the Martin Richard Foundation. With the 10th anniversary of the bombings approaching, Jim knew that running the Marathon again, this time for the Team Tufts MC charity team, would be an easy decision.

"I am a really lucky guy," said Jim. "I love what I do and I love where I work – it's a special mission. Running as part of this charity team was an obvious choice. Tufts Medical Center taught me my profession, so I wanted to run the Boston Marathon on the 10th anniversary, both for closure for myself and to support this community. To this day, I am so proud of the tens of thousands of people who showed love and support that day. That's what this is all about to me, and that's how I want to look back today at the events of 10 years ago."

Boston Marathon Bombing — 10 Years Later
Read stories of patients injured in the bombing who were cared for at Tufts Medical Center, + a story of one of our nurses who was on Boylston St. when the first bomb went off.
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