Boston marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman: As long as the surviving bomber's not free and he can't hurt anybody else, I don't really care if he is facing the death sentence
Boston marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman tells Hannah Stephenson of adapting to his double amputation, how his drinking cost him his marriage and why his daughter means the world to him
Just four-and-a-half years ago, Bostonian Jeff Bauman was a 27-year-old sports-loving guy with a job at Costco, a solid group of friends and a bright future ahead of him.
He went to cheer on Erin Hurley, his on-off girlfriend, at the 2013 Boston Marathon - when he was struck by the blast of one of two bombs and lost both his legs in the terrorist attack which killed three spectators and wounded more than 260.
He'd noticed the bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, standing about a foot away from him, wearing sunglasses, a white baseball cap pulled low over his face and a heavy hoodie.
"The thing that really struck me, though, was his demeanour," Bauman (31) recalls in his book Stronger, which has been adapted into the eponymous film starring Jake Gyllenhaal, released next week. "Everyone was cheering and watching the race. Everyone was enjoying themselves. Except this guy. He was alone, and he wasn't having a good time. He was all business."
He was so bothered by the stranger that he suggested to one of his friends they move closer to the finish line. But when he looked back, the man was gone, leaving his backpack on the ground near Bauman's feet. Then came the explosion.
Bauman, who was pictured being carried away from the scene of the explosion, lost both his legs above the knee. An ER surgeon happened to be close by and wrapped tourniquets made out of shirts around Bauman's severed legs.
Another onlooker quickly lifted him into a wheelchair intended for runners too tired to walk after finishing the race, rushing him to an ambulance to Boston Medical Center. According to doctors, he was about three minutes from death.
Four years on, it's testament to his determination and inner strength that he has recently been pictured walking the red carpet with Gyllenhaal at the film's premiere. "I don't know what I feel about it. It's kind of overwhelming but it's a good experience," he reflects. "I know not everyone has this opportunity. I know that only about 2% of books get made into a movie. So it's really cool and I think that's amazing."
He's known Gyllenhaal for more than two years and he's become like family, he says. The movie was filmed at the rehabilitation centre in Boston, where he recovered, and even features the doctors and nurses who treated him.
In it, viewers see his real surgeon Dr Jeffrey Kalish breaking the news to his parents, played by Miranda Richardson and Clancy Brown.
"Everyone involved wanted to get the realness of the situation. It's a real story. Jake's a great person who really cares about his work. He really got into what it is to be an amputee, to understand what it took for me to even get out of bed."
He says the film reduced him to tears a few times. "Jake captured the agony really well, and it was really hard to see what I've been through."
Bauman was instrumental in helping the FBI catch the killers. Soon after emergency surgery, from his hospital bed, he told the authorities that he had seen one of the bombers and identified Tsarnaev in a photograph.
The attacker died in a gun battle with police days after the bombing and Bauman testified at the 2015 trial of Tsarnaev's younger brother, Dzhokhar, who was given the death penalty.
While Bauman became a hero in Boston, away from the media spotlight, he embarked on a succession of rehabilitation therapies, learning to walk again with prosthetic limbs, and suffered much pain, both mental and physical. He has had bouts of depression and heavy drinking, but says he has been alcohol-free for the last 16 months.
His relationship with Erin (played by Tatiana Maslany) is also explored in the film, from the initial explosion, when she was frantically trying to find out what happened to him, to the difficulties she had in their relationship during his painful rehabilitation. They married in 2014 and now have a three-year-old daughter, Nora. But earlier this year, they announced they were getting divorced.
"My drinking took a toll on our relationship. The first couple of years I was drinking and partying, masking it [the depression] by staying out all night, being irresponsible. Now I don't do that. I haven't drunk for almost a year and a half.
"She left and that kind of punched me in the face hard. That made me realise, 'I'm going to lose everything'. I'd lost Erin but now I can't lose Nora."
He admits he still struggles with depression, has therapy and is learning how to deal with his feelings in a healthier way. He has made great progress and is currently studying mechanical engineering at a local college.
"My prosthetics are hard to work on, especially being a double [amputation] above the knee. It's hard to navigate. I have to walk every day and keep walking. That's a tough spot.
"Otherwise, I'm adapted to life. I get out, I drive, I went back to school this past year, where I had to go to classes every day and get up at 6am to get to my 7am class.
"It's just getting back into normal life. It's hard, but once you accomplish that and get back to some sort of normal routine, it's awesome. It's like 'OMG, I got my life back!'"
He walks a couple of miles a week, but needs a cane when attempting uneven surfaces like grass, or when playing outside with his daughter.
"I have different leg attachments. I can make myself really short or put on these 'stubbies' with no knee component and I can move better with those. I don't have to focus on what my knee is going to do and I'm closer to the ground."
He hasn't had any pain killers for years, but admits that he still has good days and bad days. "A bad day is when I wake up and I really don't feel like doing anything. I'll look at my legs and they're staring at me and I don't really want to put them on."
He says in the book that he has forgiven the terrorists. "I've got too much in my life to think about them. As for forgiveness, I'm here, I'm alive. I don't really think about them at all."
He's too focused on his own future to think about the death sentence facing Dzhokhar, he says.
"As long as he's not free and he can't hurt anybody else, I don't really care about that," he says.
For now, he's relishing his time with his daughter, who he says helps him get his prosthetic legs on and off.
"My life revolves around her, it's pretty sweet. I try to do fun stuff with her every day."
Stronger by Jeff Bauman with Bret Witter is published in paperback by Blink on November 30, priced £8.99. The film is released on December 8