One Year Later, Boston Marathon Survivor Brothers Debut Memoir
This article originally appeared in the Stoneham Sun, April 2014.
Brothers JP and Paul Norden have been through many trials over the past year. While attending the 2013 Boston Marathon in support of a participating friend, the two men were caught in the bombing, each losing a leg. Since then, they’ve recovered both inside and out, having recently published their first book and currently planning to start their own roofing business.
Twice as Strong
“We just wanted to give our message,” said JP when asked why he and Paul wrote their book, “Twice As Strong,” which debuted on March 24th. “It took a tragedy for us to realize how good things were in life. You were just doing life, living in a rut, doing the same thing every day: working, coming home, and that was it. We just thought it’d be nice if people just lived life like they were supposed to, but do what you want to do and don’t wait for something bad to happen to realize how good things are.”
“We have no idea how the book will do,” JP continued. “But we’re going to help our mom with her foundation [for amputees] and of course we’ll have to put some aside for us, too. You want to be safe, you want to make sure that you’ll have enough for the future.”
“You don’t know what the future will bring, you know?” said Paul.
“Hopefully the book does well so we can give back in some way,” said JP. “Definitely something that’ll help people out because some people didn’t get a good jump in the One Fund. Like this boy we met, he lost his leg in a boating accident. He didn’t have a One Fund.”
“We’re in the process of opening up our own roofing company. Pretty much the business part of it,” said JP, who used to be a roofer with Paul. “We’re going to try that and if it doesn’t work, we’ve both had some job offers that we might go into. We’re not sure. But definitely trying the roofing first. ‘Norden Brothers.’ Nice and simple. We’ve had a lot of support when we first talked about it, so we think it’ll go well.”
“All we have to do is get our foot in the door and the work will speak for itself,” said Paul.
“We’re obviously promoting our book, so we’re thinking about this summer,” said JP. “We’ll really start pushing for it.”
“He’s got another leg surgery,” Paul added, “so he’ll be off his leg about a month or two.”
“I spoke with our old boss and said I’m going to sit down and talk with him to get the logistics about everything,” said JP. “We opened the LLC for it and we got the insurance, but that’s the easy part. Then you start to find out that you need bonds and you need this and you need that. And I was dizzy by the time I was done. So I need to know more about it. But we’ll really start pushing for it by probably June. [The Marathon anniversary] will all probably die down by May. We’re going to relax a little and see how it goes.”
On Their Unstoppable Mom
“There was no doubt in my mind that she was going to win,” said Paul, whose mother, Liz Norden, won the “Unstoppable Mom” contest this past March on “Live with Kelly and Michael,” granting her a $100,000 check and a trip to Disney World. “She’s been to Hell and back. She definitely deserved it.”
“All the mothers deserved it,” said JP, “but that award…we gave that to her anyway. Her being recognized by the whole country and stuff, that was pretty cool for her. She was unstoppable to us anyway.”
In addition to cleaning houses and caring for her two sons after the Marathon, Liz is also a cancer survivor and mother of five. She was earlier quoted with a plan to put a portion of the “Unstoppable Mom” winnings toward a foundation for amputees.
Visits from Michelle Obama and Deval Patrick
Despite standing beside each other as their friend ran the 2013 Marathon, the chaos that ensued after the bombings caused JP and Paul to be rushed to different hospitals. Within the next few days, they had unexpected visits from politicians, giving them both something to laugh about these days.
“It was weird,” said JP. “I’d just woken up and [Michelle Obama] was there. Maybe she’d been there Wednesday, I really don’t know. But I was excited because my friends and family were there and of course there was emotional stuff, too. You have all that involved and then you have strangers coming in…and honestly, I just didn’t know at the time. I knew who Michelle Obama was, but I wasn’t thinking that Michelle Obama was going to be coming into my room.”
“So Michelle comes in, I’m blacked out on medicine, and I don’t know what’s going on. So she comes in and asks, ‘If you could have anything, what would you want?’ And I was like, “Aww, man, a coffee frappe would be great.’ So she got a coffee for our friend and he actually spilled it on her. And she was a sweetheart, really nice.”
Paul commented that he didn’t know if he could remember Deval Patrick’s visit to his hospital room because he was still in a medically-induced coma at the time. “I woke up telling everyone that Deval Patrick was going to pay for my leg, so I don’t know if he was talking to me or I was hallucinating. I could hear some people talking in the coma. But either way I got a leg,” he joked.
“I have a hard time [with all the attention],” said Paul, “but the people that show their support, it’s just so nice. I have to actually say I have no regrets because people are so nice and so caring. It’s worth it.”
“The last three weeks especially, we’ve done 3-5 interviews a day,” said JP. “You come in, answer the questions, and then you have to answer the same questions a couple hours later. And then a few hours later again, you do the same thing. That part was hard. But at least now we can say, ‘If you want to hear it, you can get the book.’”
JP now lives in Reading and Paul has become engaged to Jacqui Webb, who also survived the Marathon bombing and is featured in “Twice As Strong.”