Liza Cherney ’06, MA ’07 studied gerontology at USC. But she also was a Tri Delt officer, ran marathons and tutored kids through USC’s Joint Educational Project. She moved east to get her MBA from Boston College in May. A month before graduating, she attended the Boston Marathon to support a friend in the race. As she told USC Trojan Family Magazine, the tragic bombing there would change her life forever.
We wanted to get to the finish line to see our friend finish, then suddenly everything changed.
My friend immediately knew what had happened, but I didn’t know it was a bomb until the second bomb went off. I dropped, and then I stood up.
I looked down at my thumbnail. I’d just gotten one of those gel manicures and was upset because it was cracked — and I think the gel saved my finger.
But I started to realize I might be hurt. I asked the closest person I could find, “Am I OK?” She looked at my face and said I had some cuts but seemed OK—and then she looked down at my leg and tried not to look panicked.
They took me to the emergency room at Beth Israel hospital. There was a psych nurse there, and I told her I was by myself and she stayed with me throughout the whole thing. They did an X-ray of my leg and said they thought there was shrapnel, and a CT confirmed it. Almost immediately they took me up to surgery.
In all, I had four surgeries on my upper leg. The last one was the day before my birthday.
The whole experience made me realize I’m a lot tougher than I would’ve known. My friend says that while in the hospital I had a reckless abandon to get up and get going.
I wanted to get back to normal as soon as possible. I’m very active and love the gym and spinning, so being in the hospital was really hard.
Now I try not to dwell on what happened and I don’t want it to define me. However, I know it will always be part of my past. I have to go to physical therapy, can’t walk like I normally did and have to rely on people more than I ever have. I’m not angry and I’m not bitter. I am just very thankful that I have such great people around me. One of my friends from USC flew out to Boston to help me. She’s a nurse and she stayed for four days.
From the moment I stepped on the campus, I loved USC and I knew it was the school for me, and it was definitely because of the people. I made lifelong friends there. Through all of this, it’s been incredible to see that my friends in the USC community wanted to help however they could. Even people I haven’t talked to in years have gotten in touch. In addition, USC Trojans I have never met have sent me well wishes.
This experience has taught me to let people help me a bit more. Also, at the beginning of my last year in business school, I remember thinking that before I go back into the working world, I need to toughen up. Through this, I learned I’m pretty darned tough already.
This interview has been edited for style and length.