By Eric Stevick Herald Writer
EVERETT — Michael Downes fondly remembers the days from his childhood in the 1960s when the Boston Marathon came to town.
They were innocent times.
For a dime each, he and his big brother could board public transit and head into the heart of the city. The grueling race happened each Patriots Day when schools were closed to observe the anniversary of the historic Battles of Lexington and Concord.
Downes was 11, 12, 13 at the time; his brother, Brian, three years older.
Together, they’d stake out a spot with a good vantage point of the finish line.
Downes, now a Snohomish County Superior Court judge, can retrieve from the archives of his memory the image of a dazed, exhausted Korean runner struggling to cross the finish line. He sees people on the sidewalks handing orange slices and water to the throng of determined runners. He cherishes the time and the bond he had with his brother.
Years later, Michael Downes moved West, went to law school, became a prosecutor and later a judge. His brother stayed in New England where he married and started a family.
Brian Downes had a son who, like his father and uncle, would grow up to enjoy the Boston Marathon.
In 2005, Patrick Downes didn’t just watch from the sidelines. He ran it — the 17,006th runner to finish.
On April 15, Patrick and his wife, Jessica Kensky Downes, stood along the sidewalk to take in the spectacle.
The young couple, who married last August, made sure they were near the finish line. They leaned against one another and held hands as the runners passed. They knew it might be the last Boston Marathon they would get to see for a while. In August, Patrick, who has a doctorate in psychology, was to begin an internship at a San Francisco-area hospital. For Jessica, an oncology nurse, the move to California would be a return to her home state and the chance to be closer to her family.
Those plans dissolved in the bomb blasts that killed three people and injured more than 200 others.
The husband and wife each lost their left leg below the knee.
For many hours, Patrick seemed to have disappeared.
The couple were separated in the chaotic street-level triage. They ended up in different hospitals.
“I feared the worst,” Michael Downes said. “I had it in my mind that they must have been at the finish line. That’s where Brian and I stood.”
The hours of uncertainty were agonizing for the close-knit extended family.
Finally, a cousin spotted a news photo on the Internet of Patrick Downes in a wheelchair.
“Knowing he was alive was a palpable relief,” Michael Downes said.
On Monday, one week after the explosion, the husband and wife were scheduled to undergo their fourth surgeries.
Jessica Downes faces a longer road to recovery. Her right leg also has been extensively injured. The prospect of another 10 surgeries is very real.
The couple has been reunited through the technology of cell phones and Skyping from their hospital beds.
“He’s worried about her; she’s worried about him,” Downes said.
They look forward to the day when they are reunited, likely in a rehabilitation center where they can learn to walk together on prosthetic limbs.
Downes waits for word about Patrick and Jessica. His brother calls and texts him with updates, but Downes doesn’t press him for details.
He knows his brother is grateful to all of those who saved his son and daughter-in-law. He’s overwhelmed, too, by the outpouring of donations and goodwill to support the couple. As of Monday afternoon, more than 11,000 people had donated more than $635,000 toward their medical bills and living expenses through a Give Forward social media account set up by their friends and families.
“This is going to be a long, long haul,” Downes said.
No one in the family is thinking much about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. He is recovering from his injuries under heavy security in the same hospital where Patrick Downes is recuperating.
“Everybody is focused on Patrick and Jessica and the other people who have been hurt or who lost their lives,” Michael Downes said. “We all figure that the legal system will do what it does in the time it will take for it to do it.”
Michael Downes remembers seeing his nephew for the first time when Patrick was just three months old.
There have been periodic visits, but mainly he has watched from afar as Patrick grew up. He sensed his brother’s pride when Patrick earned his doctorate.
More impressive than the degree was the man his nephew had become.
“He’s a good kid,” Downes said. “He wants nothing but the best for other people. He’s kind, generous, thoughtful. He really truly would do anything for you.”
Patrick’s father shared an anecdote about his son with “Alcalde” — the alumni magazine at the University of Texas where Brian Downes graduated in 1972. Last Thursday, three days after losing his left leg, Patrick told his dad he hopes his ordeal someday might help others. “Dad, maybe this will make me a better psychologist,” he said.
From his judicial chambers, Michael Downes shakes his head and smiles.
“That’s that kid,” Downes sad. “That’s Patrick.”
How to help
Friends and family of Patrick and Jessica Downes have set up an account to help the couple with medical and living expenses after each lost a leg below the knee in the Boston Marathon bombing April 15. Patrick Downes is the nephew of Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael Downes. To learn more, go to http://tinyurl.com/downesfund.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.