After sickening tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombings, certain images are often embraced by the media and public as visual representations of the events' raw emotion and devastation. The photos' subjects become forever caught in their moment of heroism, horror, or pain.
For the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, for example, it was the firefighter delicately carrying a lifeless infant in his arms. For 9/11, it might be the lone business man walking out of the rubble, a cloth to his mouth, or the first responders erecting the American flag atop a mountain of metal. You might look at these images and wonder: Whatever happened to these ordinary people caught in such extraordinary circumstances? For the already-iconic images from the Boston Marathon bombings, we have your answers.
1. The woman in red
The photo: A woman manages to prop herself up on the blood-splattered ground and stares, slack-jawed and wide-eyed, off camera. Her blonde, braided hair is blown out and falling in strands around her face. Her red shirt is pocked with holes and her black pants are ripped up to her thighs to reveal debris-and-blood-covered skin. On her left foot is only a striped sock, no shoe.
The victim: The woman is reportedly Nicole Gross, a 31-year-old personal trainer from Charlotte, N.C. She traveled with her husband, Michael Gross, and her sister Erika Brannock to Boston to watch her mother, Carol Downing, run her first marathon. Gross, who had run two marathons herself, reportedly coached her mother through the training and was excited to witness her mom's achievement. On Monday, Downing had not yet crossed the finish line when the blast went off and sent Gross into the haunting position a Boston Globe photographer found her in. According to the Charlotte Observer, Gross suffered two breaks in her left leg, an ankle fracture in her right, and a severed Achilles' tendon. Her sister, Erika, fared worse — her left leg was amputated below the knee, she has a compound fracture in her right leg, a broken right ankle, and broken bones in her right foot. Michael Gross reportedly sustained burns and cuts. Nicole Gross emerged from her second surgery in stable condition. "She remembers it all," her mother tells the Charlotte Observer, "and just wishes that she didn't."
Nicole Gross with her mother before the marathon. (AP Photo/courtesy of Brian Gross)
2. The man in the wheelchair
The photo: An ashen-faced young man in a wheelchair is pushed urgently by two civilians and a medic. Blood is smeared across his forehead and cheek. His shirt and face are covered with soot. In the cropped version of photo, his face reveals little of his injuries. But look to his entourage and you'll notice the focus and concern that offers a clue to the severity of the man's trauma. In the uncropped image, we see below his knee, where his leg and sneakered-foot should be, are only the toothpick-like remnants of bone and muscle. Whatever might be left of his right leg isn't in view.
The victim: The man is reportedly 27-year-old Jeff Bauman Jr., who was attending his first Boston Marathon to cheer on his girlfriend, who was running. Bauman, who works at Costco, grew up in Chelmsford, Mass., and still has a lot of family in the area. When he was taken to the hospital, several aunts and uncles reportedly rushed to Boston. Bauman will need the support. The damage to the one-time athlete's legs was incredibly severe, and doctors at the Boston Medical Center were forced to amputate what was left of both below the knee. Bauman's back was also burned and his right eye was injured. By Tuesday night, he was still in critical condition. Bauman's parents reportedly only found out about their son's injuries when the photo went viral. "Unfortunately my son was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," his father wrote on Facebook.
3. The fallen runner
The photo: A man with gray, thinning hair is caught mid-tumble on the black concrete. His back is to the camera — the wisps of his hair blowing in the wind and his bright orange tank top clinging to his still-sweaty body. He faces a group of Boston Police officers, who react to the explosion. One officer, gun drawn, and another, his hand grasping a Walkie-Talkie, appear to be sprinting toward the chaos. The air is still cloudy from the blast.
The victim: The runner is reportedly 78-year-old Bill Iffrig of Lake Stevens, Wash. Iffrig is a retired carpenter and an elite long-distance runner for his age group. This year's marathon was to be his 45th overall and his third in Boston. He was but 15 feet from the finish when the first explosion threw him to the ground. "The force from it just turned my whole body to jelly and I went down," he said. He initially expected the worst, but when he had only a scraped knee, he attempted to get up and make it across the finish. With the aid of an attendant, Iffrig was able to complete the race and instead of being helped to the medical tent, he walked on to his hotel, just six blocks away, where his wife was waiting. After his photograph went viral, Iffrig was interviewed by CNN and other organizations. He said that the tragedy won't prevent him from participating in future marathons.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Bush vs. Clinton in 2016 is the perfect way to make millennials hate politics even more
- The latent sexism of the male marriage proposal
- This judge is the reason we're still fighting over net neutrality
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The lessons of Japan's latest recession
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- The week's best photojournalism
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- How to grow a microscopic alien garden
Subscribe to the Week