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Jeff Bauman visits Concord, meets volunteers who renovated family’s home

  • Christopher Bauman, center, greets his older brother, Jeff,  by mussing his hair while Jeff talks with Gov. Maggie Hassan, right, outside their family's home on October 27, 2013. After four months of work by an all-volunteer force of local businesses and residents, the Bauman family celebrated the renovations completed on their Concord home that facilitate Jeff, a double amputee after the Boston Marathon attack, visiting his parents. An addition with wheelchair accessible entrances and features was created and the Bauman's kitchen was revamped. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Christopher Bauman, center, greets his older brother, Jeff, by mussing his hair while Jeff talks with Gov. Maggie Hassan, right, outside their family's home on October 27, 2013. After four months of work by an all-volunteer force of local businesses and residents, the Bauman family celebrated the renovations completed on their Concord home that facilitate Jeff, a double amputee after the Boston Marathon attack, visiting his parents. An addition with wheelchair accessible entrances and features was created and the Bauman's kitchen was revamped.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Csilla and Jeff Bauman stand on their family's new deck to thank the people that helped to add it to their home during a celebration on Sunday afternoon, October 27, 2013. Their son Jeff, in the foreground, can now access the family home thanks to a new wheelchair ramp and other features. After four months of work by an all-volunteer force of local businesses and residents, the Bauman family celebrated the renovations completed on their Concord home that facilitate Jeff, a double amputee after the Boston Marathon attack, visiting his parents. An addition with wheelchair accessible entrances and features was created and the Bauman's kitchen was revamped. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Csilla and Jeff Bauman stand on their family's new deck to thank the people that helped to add it to their home during a celebration on Sunday afternoon, October 27, 2013. Their son Jeff, in the foreground, can now access the family home thanks to a new wheelchair ramp and other features. After four months of work by an all-volunteer force of local businesses and residents, the Bauman family celebrated the renovations completed on their Concord home that facilitate Jeff, a double amputee after the Boston Marathon attack, visiting his parents. An addition with wheelchair accessible entrances and features was created and the Bauman's kitchen was revamped.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • A list of all the local businesses and residents that helped the renovations on the Bauman home be completed was posted during the celebration. Cobb Hill Construction and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church led the efforts and were joined by scores of other organizations and individuals. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    A list of all the local businesses and residents that helped the renovations on the Bauman home be completed was posted during the celebration. Cobb Hill Construction and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church led the efforts and were joined by scores of other organizations and individuals.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Jeff Bauman, center, greets Ed Mullen Sr., the associate pastor at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, while arriving at his family's newly renovated home on Sunday, October 27, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Jeff Bauman, center, greets Ed Mullen Sr., the associate pastor at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, while arriving at his family's newly renovated home on Sunday, October 27, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Renovations in the kitchen included more space and some new appliances, like a refrigerator that was quickly covered in family photos. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Renovations in the kitchen included more space and some new appliances, like a refrigerator that was quickly covered in family photos.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Csilla Bauman hugs her son Christopher in the living room of their newly renovated home during the barbecue the family hosted to thank all the volunteers that helped the family have a wheelchair accessible home that allowed Jeff, their son, to visit and spend time. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Csilla Bauman hugs her son Christopher in the living room of their newly renovated home during the barbecue the family hosted to thank all the volunteers that helped the family have a wheelchair accessible home that allowed Jeff, their son, to visit and spend time.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Christopher Bauman, center, greets his older brother, Jeff,  by mussing his hair while Jeff talks with Gov. Maggie Hassan, right, outside their family's home on October 27, 2013. After four months of work by an all-volunteer force of local businesses and residents, the Bauman family celebrated the renovations completed on their Concord home that facilitate Jeff, a double amputee after the Boston Marathon attack, visiting his parents. An addition with wheelchair accessible entrances and features was created and the Bauman's kitchen was revamped. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Csilla and Jeff Bauman stand on their family's new deck to thank the people that helped to add it to their home during a celebration on Sunday afternoon, October 27, 2013. Their son Jeff, in the foreground, can now access the family home thanks to a new wheelchair ramp and other features. After four months of work by an all-volunteer force of local businesses and residents, the Bauman family celebrated the renovations completed on their Concord home that facilitate Jeff, a double amputee after the Boston Marathon attack, visiting his parents. An addition with wheelchair accessible entrances and features was created and the Bauman's kitchen was revamped. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • A list of all the local businesses and residents that helped the renovations on the Bauman home be completed was posted during the celebration. Cobb Hill Construction and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church led the efforts and were joined by scores of other organizations and individuals. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Jeff Bauman, center, greets Ed Mullen Sr., the associate pastor at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, while arriving at his family's newly renovated home on Sunday, October 27, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Renovations in the kitchen included more space and some new appliances, like a refrigerator that was quickly covered in family photos. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Csilla Bauman hugs her son Christopher in the living room of their newly renovated home during the barbecue the family hosted to thank all the volunteers that helped the family have a wheelchair accessible home that allowed Jeff, their son, to visit and spend time. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

As a red car pulled into the driveway of Jeff and Csilla Bauman’s Concord home yesterday afternoon, dozens of people who’d been standing in the backyard started moving forward, eager to see and meet the reason they were there.

The passenger-side door opened and out stepped the younger Jeff Bauman, standing about 4 feet tall on “stubbies,” which are short prosthetics. Surrounded by his father, stepmother and younger brother Alan, Bauman walked through the front yard, just as steady as if he’d been up on two feet.

Almost immediately, the crowd gathered around him, eager to shake his hand. They had all volunteered time to help renovate the Baumans’ home to be wheelchair accessible and were invited to see the finished product, as well as to meet Bauman. To those dozens of volunteers, some of whom wore blue-and-yellow “Building for Bauman” shirts, Bauman symbolized strength, resilience and the ability to overcome tragedy.

“You inspired a lot of the people,” said Carey Borden, the project manager for Cobb Hill Construction during the first phase of the renovation.

“It’s not too often you get to meet a national hero,” another guest told Csilla.

Bauman, surrounded by his family members, was humble in the face of admiration, shaking each person’s hand with a smile on his face and an expression of gratitude. Six months ago, when he lost both of his legs in the Boston Marathon bombings and helped identify one of the alleged perpetrators, all of the attention was overwhelming. But now it’s become a part of his life, and he’s eager to thank those who have supported him.

It’s been “nothing but support from everybody,” he said. “You know, when (the bombing) happened to me, I didn’t think this was going to happen. . . . it’s insane the amount of support I get.”

Bauman grew up living in Massachusetts with his mother, but he often visited his father, stepmother and two half-brothers in Concord. Since the marathon bombings, his visits have been limited, partly because it wasn’t easy for him to get around their home in a wheelchair.

Understanding the challenges the house would pose for Bauman’s visits, neighbor Pat Swinehart first proposed gathering volunteers to build a wheelchair ramp into the family’s Thomas Street home.

By mid-August, that suggestion had turned into complete renovation plans, led by Borden and Ed Mullen Sr., associate pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary, where Swinehart and Csilla are parishioners. The renovation included ripping off the enclosed back porch and tearing down a shed in order to extend the kitchen and add a first-floor bedroom and wheelchair accessible bathroom for Bauman. The house also has a brand-new wooden deck with a wheelchair ramp.

“The idea of a ramp just blossomed,” said Swinehart, who was often taking pictures of the construction and helping however she could.

Throughout the project, more than 50 businesses and dozens of volunteers donated materials and time. The family’s backyard became a gathering of sorts for families who wanted to help. A dirt pile in the backyard with an American flag sticking out of the top often served as a playground for kids whose parents were giving their time to the project. Local restaurants would send food over to feed the volunteers.

The project was finished about a week and a half ago, and yesterday it was dedicated to everyone who gave their time. Gov. Maggie Hassan, who visited Bauman in May when he was at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, attended the event and told the crowd the project was an example of the community spirit people in New Hampshire possess.

The elder Jeff and Csilla also thanked the volunteers for the hard work and long hours they put into the project.

“I just want to say, thank you that you extended yourselves to our son Jeff and our family,” Csilla said through tears. “We really appreciate it, and it’s been very overwhelming, but we’re so thankful to all of you.”

For the family, the project has been bittersweet – a constant reminder that their life isn’t the same and that it never will be.

Their backyard, for example, used to be home to a giant hockey rink. When Bauman would visit, he and his brothers, Alan and Chris, would often challenge each other to games and shoot-outs, playing late into the night.

“We had the hockey rink going, we’d fill it and play all night, 11 till 3 in the morning,” Bauman recalled. “I’m surprised the neighbors (never) said anything – we’d be shooting pucks off the board.”

Bauman’s brothers have each dealt with his injuries in their own ways. Chris, 23, thinks about the bombings every day and said he’s had a harder time coping with his brother’s accident than the rest of the family. The day before the marathon, Bauman was visiting the family in Concord, walking around the house, Chris said. He’s upset about the reasons for the renovation but glad his brother will now have an easier time visiting.

Alan, 19, was in basic training for the Air National Guard in Texas when the bombs exploded, and he wasn’t able to see his brother right away. He’s been back since last month, though, and now spends a lot of time with Bauman. The more time they spend together, the easier it is for Alan to see past his brother’s injuries.

“It was weird when I first got back because I was gone during all of it, and it was weird when I visited him in the hospital when I came back from my break in training,” Alan said. “But now living with him, seeing him walk, I’m probably one of the closest people to him, (and) it’s just regular things.”

The elder Jeff hopes his son’s story will be an inspiration to others.

“Hopefully he’ll help some people, he’ll tell his story and get it out there and maybe change somebody’s life, or let them know that you can make it after anything happens to you,” Jeff said.

Indeed, just as the volunteers gathered yesterday see Bauman as a symbol of strength, many people across the country have looked to him as a face of hope amid something terrible. Looking ahead, Bauman thinks of his recovery step-by-step, first from the hospital bed to the wheelchair, then to the stubbies, which will help him build strength as he transitions into full prosthetic legs.

“Right now, I feel like nothing can hurt me,” he told Mayor Jim Bouley. “I feel really strong.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @kronayne.)

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