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Survivor of Boston Marathon bombings returns home to South Bay

Boston Marathon Bombing (2013)SportsTamerlan TsarnaevBoston MarathonFBIDzhokhar Tsarnaev

John Odom struggled to describe what it was like to be back home in Southern California. He had spent the last five months on the East Coast recovering from injuries he sustained in the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.

"You don't have really the words to describe the feeling to walk in that front door — just such a great feeling inside that, oh my God, I'm home," Odom said in an interview at his home in Torrance on Saturday. "It felt like, for whatever reason, the weight on your shoulders was gone and it was just awesome to be able to go upstairs and get in our own bed."

Odom, 65, and his wife, Karen, returned home from Boston on Friday to a celebration held in his honor by friends and family at a Mexican restaurant in El Segundo. "It brought a lot of closure to people that had lived with us through this tragedy," he said.

The couple, along with other family members, were in Boston on April 15 to cheer on their daughter, who was running in the marathon.

They were standing near the finish line when two bombs went off.

Shrapnel from the blasts — including a 1-inch piece of pipe that Odom believes could have been the handle of the pressure cooker the bomb was made out of — went through his left leg and into his right leg, puncturing a sciatic nerve and arteries, nearly killing him.

"It blew me to the ground and my wife was standing next to me, blew her down on top of me," Odom said. "She could see the damage that was done to my left leg because there was a big hole in it and the muscle was sticking out."

His son-in-law, New England Revolution soccer goalie Matt Reis, took off his belt and used it as a tourniquet around Odom's leg — a move Odom believes helped slow the loss of blood and save his life.

"I wasn't unconscious, but I was laying down on my side and I couldn't move, I couldn't get up," Odom said.

Doctors were unsure he would survive. Twice, his heart stopped.

Odom's condition was eventually downgraded to serious. But it was unclear whether he would ever walk again, and if so, how well. Now he can walk, but he wears a brace on his left leg and has lost feeling in his foot.

He underwent a total of 11 surgeries. No other members of the family — there were seven of them there — were injured.

Karen Odom, 62, stayed in Boston with her husband, sleeping at hotels and the hospital.

Odom said he tries not to think about the bombings. He said he'll never understand why someone could do such a thing.

"What I really concentrate on is the therapy and moving forward," he said.

Bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a police shootout four days after the blasts. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, 20, was arrested and charged in the attack and could face the death penalty if convicted. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, whom court documents accuse of designing the two pressure-cooker bombs, had been the target of an investigation by the FBI and Russian law enforcement over his suspected ties to violent groups in Chechnya.

Odom said he's often asked whether he'll return to the Boston Marathon. He said "sure," but he plans to avoid that spot on the route.

Only three weeks away from retirement when the bombings occurred, Odom said he is planning to return to work part-time on Monday. He was chairman of the board at Murray Co., a mechanical contracting firm in Rancho Dominguez, and remains on the board.

But first, on Sunday, he'll celebrate his 46th wedding anniversary with his wife. She has an idea about how she'd like to mark the occasion.

"You know what?" she said. "Doing nothing might be wonderful. Just being home is a gift."

ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Boston Marathon Bombing (2013)SportsTamerlan TsarnaevBoston MarathonFBIDzhokhar Tsarnaev
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