E:60 Presents: "Dream On: Stories of Boston's Strongest"
The scene onscreen is universal: a father teaching his young son how to play a favorite sport, in this case, hockey.
The two glide around a local ice rink, the son attempting stick maneuvers as Dad calls out encouragement. The action then moves to the family living room, where a makeshift arena has been set up.
Universal, perhaps, but anything but normal. For this father is Marc Fucarile of Stoneham, Massachusetts, among the more than 260 people injured by the Boston Marathon bombing of April 15, 2013, and the one who was hospitalized for the longest period, 100 days. His right leg was blown off at the knee by the second of the two explosions, and his left leg severely burned.
At the skating rink, Fucarile moves about atop a sliding device while son Gavin skates; at home, his means of transport is his wheelchair.
The father-son vignettes (mom is Fucarile’s now-wife, then fiancée Jen) are among the numerous poignant scenes of E:60 Presents “Dream On: Stories of Boston’s Strongest,” an installment of the ESPN newsmagazine series which focuses on five bombing survivors and two first responders.
The show premiered on the first anniversary of the bombing, April 15, 2014. It is hosted by ABC News reporter Bob Woodruff, who had suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2006 after a roadside bombing while he was covering the war in Iraq.
Avid Boston sports fan Ben Affleck narrates Fucarile’s story, chronicled throughout the episode, while New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady narrates the other profiles.
“Our goal was to find five different [survivor] stories that were unique from one another. That’s how we narrowed them down,” supervising producer Heather Lombardo told USA Today about the choice of whom to include.
“The stories were not necessarily who had the worst injuries or most dramatic story from that day, but unique stories that everyone could relate to on a human interest level but stood apart from each other. Our goal was never to rehash that day. Our goal was to tell stories that moved beyond that day. Stories of hope and perseverance and rebuilding.”
Fucarile’s rebuilding includes grueling physical therapy, constant pain and the challenges of using a prosthetic leg.
Another survivor, Karen McWatters, also lost a leg. More importantly, she lost her best friend, Krystle Campbell, who was standing right next to her. The story told here, though, as Brady points out, is not one of what she lost, but of what she found.
After receiving her prosthetic leg, McWatters was furniture shopping one day when a salesman approached her and told her of a family friend in his native El Salvador, a 14-year-old girl named Estefania, whose leg had been severed a few days earlier when she was hit by a car. McWatters went to the girl’s Facebook page and struck up a long-distance friendship with her. “She became a part of me,” McWatters says.
The Boston survivor was determined to bring the El Salvador survivor to the U.S. to be fitted for an otherwise-unaffordable prosthesis, achieving that goal a few months later.
“I am so grateful to her,” Estefania says. “I love her. She is my angel.”
And so it continues throughout the show – strangers reaching out to strangers, at the bombing site and beyond: picking up the wounded and racing them to ambulances; contributing to fundraisers for ongoing medical care; inviting another survivor, 12-year-old Bay Area resident Aaron Hern, to throw out the first pitch at a game played by his favorite team, the Oakland A’s.
The episode ends with a performance recorded especially for the show: Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, whose rock band Aerosmith has its roots in Boston, perform one of the group’s signature songs, “Dream On,” backed by the Southern California Children’s Chorus.
The heartfelt vocals, passionate playing and innocent faces of the choir are intercut with scenes of tributes to the fallen and shots of the runners of Team MR8, taking to the Boston streets a few weeks before they are to run the 2014 Boston Marathon in memory of eight-year-old Martin Richard, who was killed by the second explosion.
A portion of the performance, used as a trailer for the show, won a Sports Emmy this May. The show was also named Outstanding Edited Sports Special. And it now adds the Academy Honors statuette to its well-deserved collection.
As executive producer Andy Tennant told USA Today: "There [are] different points we wanted to hit during the course of the hour. Courage, healing, resilience. These are all things we all wanted to explore and show.” They certainly succeeded.
As have the survivors. One of Marc Fucarile’s goals was to walk down the aisle at his wedding. He made it.
For demonstrating the courage of the people of Boston, E:60 Presents "Dream On: Stories of Boston's Strongest" is a recipient of 2015 Television Academy Honors.
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