I was blown up by a bomber and survived. Here’s how I kept on going

According to several doctors, I’m supposed to be dead … if it hadn’t been for being (partially) fairly fit when the incident happened. The incident was getting blown up by a bomber years ago while serving as a CIA officer in a war zone. The day of the attack, I had gone for a refreshing six-mile run on a U.S. base there. Within hours my life was never to be the same, although the loved ones of those killed suffered much greater loss and pain. 

Getting injured in a war zone does not make me unique; many of our brothers and sisters, whether military or civilian, have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country – you and me – or have been wounded and scarred, physically and/or mentally, in doing same. Please do not ever forget that.

Today, having recovered as well as I can from my initial injuries, but also living with metal hardware, screws and shrapnel in my body, and chronic nerve pain and missing muscle, and other orthopedic issues, I count myself as one of the luckiest people alive.


Not to be dramatic or hokey, and not to have pity on others, let alone myself, I feel superbly lucky to be alive, let alone walking or running. As I noted above, in talking to several doctors in the weeks and months after getting injured, some looked me in the face and made the sobering comment about me cheating death. 

Whether getting blown up, surviving a car crash, or fighting a disease or illness, cheating or fending off death for another day changes your perspective on life. Without being too fatalistic or preachy, I, for one, take nothing for granted, and I cherish every moment I have on earth. Even those “mundane” and ordinary moments hanging out with my family and other loved ones I cherish.

When I got blown up, I remember lying there and telling myself I had to hang on, I had to “stay awake, lest I not wake up again.” My kids were young, I needed to see them grow up. I needed to see my wife again. Like I said, I am very fortunate, and I never forget that. 

While in the hospital just days after the attack, a doctor asked me what I wanted to do when I recovered. I looked at him and muttered something like “I want to be able to run again.” I think he and my wife exchanged looks, suggesting that I’d be lucky to be able to just walk, given, among other injuries, a spinal cord injury that rendered one of my legs somewhat powerless.

It would take months until we would see what motion or ability would return, or not. Initial physical therapy got me back on my feet, but not much more. While convalescing at home I decided to return to a gym to try to regain whatever strength and mobility I could. It was a long slog, but I was determined. 

While I did this for my own physical and mental wellbeing, more importantly I did it for my family, and I did it to honor my fallen colleagues. You could say there was an element of defiance – towards those who knocked me and others down – in how I approached my recovery. 


Day 1, drag my leg and shuffle for all of 15 seconds at a time. Lift some weights. Day 2, try to shuffle for 20 seconds at a time. Lift some weights. After several months, I did a very limpy and sloppy mile jog, but it felt great. Keep moving. Do it for me and my family. Do it to honor our fallen heroes. Do it because I can do it.

Fast-forward to the present, and I am still somewhat as compulsive regarding my daily fitness regimen, as I am “evangelizing” on the topic of wellness and resiliency. As a senior leader and manager/supervisor at CIA, I emphatically supported and advocated for wellness and resiliency programs in the workplace for our personnel because it was the right thing to do for them and, by extension, their loved ones, and it led to a more motivated, inspired and productive workforce, to boot.

I was careful not to get too preachy or to shame anyone, but I tried to set the environment whereby our personnel felt free or encouraged to take time for themselves to partake in fitness/wellness activities, however one defines said activity; there is no one size fits all.

For me, being fit was part of what perhaps kept me from dying in an attack, but it is what continues to keep me feeling better, managing chronic pain, and still doing what I can to stack the odds in my favor. You could say it’s therapeutic. Again, I am lucky in a way. It was an incident I very luckily survived, and I’ve been able to build on my recovery.

Others perished, just as there are people who randomly come down with illnesses or diseases who do not have a chance to “out-muscle” or “out run” a terminal illness. Which leads me back to something I stated above – take nothing for granted, cherish every moment you have here, tell your loved ones you love them, and keep things in perspective. Those things that truly matter. Do what you can to physically and mentally stack the odds in your favor. If not for yourself, take care of yourself for your loved ones. That should be all the motivation you need. 


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