Tue09162014

Community

Boston Marathon survivor recalls remarkable story


Photo By: Timotius Tjahjadi/ Special to the Town Crier
Photo Timotius Tjahjadi/ Special To The Town Crier

John Ortberg, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church senior pastor, discusses the Boston Marathon bombings with church member Amanda North.

Menlo Park Presbyterian Church member Amanda North said the infamous Boston Marathon bombings changed her life forever.

In an interview-style format with Senior Pastor John Ortberg, North spoke to the church congregation June 16 about her unforgettable experience nearly two months earlier. The Silicon Valley marketing tech executive and Woodside resident was near the finish line at the April 15 event to cheer on her 20-year-old daughter, Lili. It was a beautiful day, and North had just received word that Lili was approximately a mile away.

“Moments later, there was a deafening explosion. Clouds of smoke billowed out, and I was blown off my feet,” North said.

At first, she thought it was a camera explosion. Then, after the second bomb blast, she thought, “We’re under attack. … Things just changed in a heartbeat.”

North said she looked next to her and saw a woman with the side of her leg “completely open and gaping.”

That was 29-year-old Erika Brannock, a suburban Baltimore preschool teacher who had lost a portion of one leg and broken the other. Brannock told CNN reporters that when she was down on the ground after the blast, “I had a conversation in my head with God, and I told him I wasn’t ready to go.”

Almost instantaneously, Brannock said, North crawled over to her, and said, “I’m not going to let you go.”

North said she felt a presence inside guiding her.

“I felt calm, I felt focused,” she said. “I thought, ‘I can hold her hands and I can talk to her and I can try to get her to focus on me’” until medical help arrived.

Once she returned to California, North said she prayed daily for Brannock, whose contact information she had neglected to request. Shortly afterward, North was informed that CNN was searching for her, as the network was trying to reconnect the two women.

North has become a local celebrity of sorts, with interviews on CNN with Anderson Cooper and with the New York Daily News and the San Jose Mercury News. She said she has received hundreds of emails and LinkedIn and Facebook messages, lauding the impact of kindness from strangers.

The impact of that day has been far-reaching for North, who decided to leave the tech world after 30 years.

“The marathon (incident) suggested to me (that there’s) no point in waiting,” she said.

After North bid farewell to her high-tech job, she became the first social entrepreneur in residence at Santa Clara University, where she plans to use her professional experience to help artisans in developing countries.

The night after the bombings, North’s daughter told her that they had been spared for a purpose.

“I believe I was spared to do something – I can’t ignore that,” North said after the Menlo Presbyterian service.

Menlo Park Presbyterian Church averages approximately 6,000 attendees per weekend. The church has 270 members and 1,744 attendees from 998 families from Los Altos.

For more information, visit www.mppc.org.

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