Mery Daniel held tight to her crutches and began walking. The 380 students at the William Seach Primary School, and their teachers, fell in behind her.
It was seven weeks ago that Daniel was a spectator at the finish line of the Boston Marathon when a bomb blew her left leg to shreds. Three people were killed, and 264 injured, when two bombs exploded.
Daniel’s father is a school bus driver in Weymouth and spends his days driving children to and from the Seach School. People there decided to help in a tangible way after they heard that Daniel’s leg had been amputated.
Daniel, who is 31, was at the school Wednesday when the students marched four times around the building as part of a fundraising effort. She led them for the first lap, then sat in a wheelchair as they passed by three more times.
“It means a lot,” she said. “It’s very moving.”
Daniel had never visited the school before, and this was one of her first times out in public since leaving the hospital and rehabilitation in Boston.
Daniel is a Haitian-American who now makes her home in Brockton. She graduated from medical school in Poland and wants to be a family-practice doctor. This spring, she was getting ready to apply for a post-graduate hospital residency in the Boston area. Then she went to the marathon finish line April 15.
She spent weeks in intensive care and rehab. Doctors feared she’d lose both legs. She’ll be fitted for a prosthetic leg soon, and said she is looking forward to resuming a life “as normal as possible.”
She has a lot of bills that insurance won’t completely cover. She qualifies for One Fund Boston compensation but didn’t say a word about that at Seach. She was there for the students.
The Seach students and teachers fell in behind Daniel as she balanced herself on her crutches and began walking around the school Wednesday. School staff members cheered as she rounded the building corner to the main entrance, which was decorated with blue and yellow “Boston Strong” balloons. She was a bit winded, but smiling, as she sat in a wheelchair her father, Hary Volmar of Brockton, brought to her.
As she watched, 5-year-old kindergartner Gianna Werra broke out of the line of students, hugged Daniel and gave her a sheaf of drawings.
When the students finished their 20-minute walk around the school, they gathered out front, singing along with a recording of the Red Sox anthem “Sweet Caroline.”
Fourth-grader Wyatt Larocco was one of many who said they felt they had done a good thing.
“It’s good to help someone who’s been through something like that,” hesaid.
Moments later the top fundraisers from each classroom gathered with Principal Deborah St. Ives and other staff members in the courtyard to present Daniel a check for $8,275 – money for a foundation set up to help Daniel pay her medical bills and related expenses. The money included a lot of $1 contributions from the students’ own allowances.
“I’m speechless,” Daniel said. “Thank you.”