s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 3 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read 6 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We hope you've enjoyed reading your 10 free articles this month.
Continue reading with unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you!
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for your interest in award-winning community journalism! To get more of it, why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Take the next step by subscribing today!
Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app, and support local journalism!
Already a subscriber?

A ‘wave of love’ followed Boston bombing

X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes lost more than just their left legs that fateful day in April 2013 as they stood near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

The newlyweds had made a spontaneous trip to the prestigious road race to soak in the energy of it one last time before they moved to San Francisco. But two bomb blasts changed everything, and they experienced what Kensky described as a “profound loss.”

They were given prosthetic legs, and Kensky eventually had to have her right leg amputated, too, after spending a period of time in a motorized wheelchair.

Their medical careers were suddenly put on hold. Downes lost his psychology fellowship, so the move out West was called off. Their apartment building didn’t have elevators so they couldn’t reach their fourth-floor home. Driving anywhere was a major undertaking.

Trips to the store were suddenly filled with complicated emotions when Kensky said she would overhear kids, unaware of how loudly they were talking ask, “Mom, what happened to that lady’s legs?”

It was the response from parents, minimizing the attack by calling it an accident before rushing them away, that paved a new path for the couple. They used their experience as survivors to start an unfiltered conversation with kids about loss and anguish, and how to come back from it.

That journey brought them to Petaluma on Tuesday to promote their new children’s book, “Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship,” with stops at Sonoma Mountain Charter School and Copperfield’s Books as part of their West Coast tour.

“We didn’t know what we were getting into with the book tour, but the kids are our favorite part,” Kensky said after signing copies of their New York Times bestseller in the school library. “It was such a great audience; they were really captivated. I don’t usually read the book — Patrick does — because I can’t compete with that Rescue voice, but I love watching their faces during the reading. It’s amazing how much I think they’re picking up on.

“These different emotions that we don’t always expose children to — I think we tend to try to shield them from feelings of sadness and hopelessness. But they experience it in different ways and levels in their life. I think it’s important to show it and talk about it and normalize it then talk about what’s next.”

The book chronicles the parallel paths of a young Jessica and a dog named Rescue, who is eager to have a purpose. Jessica learns of an opportunity to have a service dog and, over time, their relationship pulls her out of her despair as she leans on him and he, in turn, leans on her.

In front of hundreds of students at Sonoma Mountain’s multi-purpose room, Kensky and Downes showed off their prosthetic limbs and let their 5-year-old black lab, also named Rescue, steal the show with his impressive array of tasks.

After the reading, they wanted to hear about everyone’s favorite pages and began fielding questions from a curious student body. Some were about Rescue, some were about their limbs and, once Downes shared that they had been attacked, many questions were about the bombing.

They don’t mind those questions, either. In fact, they encourage them because figuring out how to explain the attack to kids helped shape how they wrote the book.

“We want kids to ask about it because, if they don’t, they cook up their own answer in their head that tends to be a lot more scary,” Downes said. “It makes us think about what are the basic building blocks of this. Yes, we got blown up. Two people intended to hurt us, but then this whole wave of love and support followed it. Now, it’s obviously more complicated than that, but when you lay it out for a kid that way, as upsetting as it might be, they can sit with it, too.”

The duo are big proponents of being transparent with children as a means of forming trust. Downes said he “continues to be impressed with how sophisticated kids are.”

He referenced a specific comment from a girl that said her favorite page was the one with Jessica clasping on to Rescue in a white-lit bed surrounded by blackness. For her, it made her think of her cat and how it instinctively comes to console her whenever she cries.

“In that illustration, it was chalked full of meaning for her,” said Downes. “Then she was able to connect it to her real life, but after connecting it to her real life, connecting it back to Jessica’s life. What does that say about her own emotional maturity? Then her empathic ability to imagine what it’d be like for someone else. Looking at her, she’s a sweet young girl, but you might not have given her that credit at face value, but she has loads of it.”

Days like Tuesday, reading in front of children, has been the best part of the tour, Kensky said. As a Sacramento native, road-weary from a tour stop in her hometown, the east Petaluma elementary school was rejuvenating.

It’s that kind of energy she and Downes got from Rescue when they were in a dark place and had every opportunity to close the blinds and stay in bed. It was this black lab, the 2017 ASPCA Dog of the Year, which got them out of the house and into the world where they found the inspiration to write a book that eventually brought them to Petaluma.

“Rescue was the first thing that came back into our life,” Kensky said. “He just had this instant therapeutic effect on not just us, but our whole family. We had something happy and goofy to focus on. … He’s helped in the ways we anticipated but there was all these unexpected ways he’s (helped). No, I can’t imagine my life without him.”

(Contact News Editor Yousef Baig at yousef.baig@arguscourier.com or 776-8461, and on Twitter @YousefBaig.)