Eight months after seeing their world literally explode around them, more than 100 survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing are now setting aside their nightmare in the south of France.
Casey Sherman, a journalist writing a book about the April 15 bombing who is traveling with the 114 victims, emergency first-responders and their relatives, said the 11-day trek has been “floating group therapy” for those who survived the attack that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
“This has been the largest gathering of the survivors since the bombing,” Sherman told FoxNews.com from Avignon, France. “People have come together at different events marking the bombing, but they haven’t had a chance to sit down, relax and just talk to each other.”
The group includes bombing survivor James Costello and Krista D’Agostino, a nurse who cared for Costello at Massachusetts’ Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where he recovered from a series of operations after being injured by shrapnel blasts. The couple has since fallen in love and got engaged on Sunday after Costello proposed in Lyon on Sunday.
Sherman said other members of the group have also realized they’ve previously met thanks to the tragedy, including a first-responder who crossed paths with a female victim he last saw in a medical tent minutes after the initial blast.
Carlos Arredondo, a quick-thinking bystander who assisted victim Jeff Bauman — who lost both of his legs — and others immediately after the bombing, is also aboard the ship, as are survivors Sabrina Dello Russo and Michelle L'Heureux, who inexplicably managed to find a Larry Bird jersey in Cluny, France, Sherman said.
The all-expenses-paid cruise, which departed on Dec. 11, is due to return stateside on Saturday and is courtesy of Vantage Deluxe World Travel, a Boston-based agency. It included roundtrip airfare between Boston and Paris, as well as meals, wine and daily sightseeing activities in Avignon, Arles, Viviers and other cities.
“We hope that this vacation will give these Boston heroes a well-deserved break, and a chance to connect with other inspirational people who may understand the experiences they have gone through,” Kevin Wallace, chief operating officer of Vantage Deluxe World Travel, said in a statement. “The south of France is one of our most popular destinations, so we felt this was a wonderful way for our company to show our support and express our pride in Boston’s tremendous spirit.”
Some survivors, particularly those still recovering from injuries, are having difficulty navigating French streets, however, especially the cobblestone varieties, Sherman said.
“But they’re doing it; they’re Boston strong and you can really see it,” Sherman told FoxNews.com. “But every emotion is at its peak because of what these people have been through.”
Sherman, whose forthcoming book will include details of the trip, said he was invited along with former Boston Herald lead investigative reporter Dave Wedge to chronicle the recuperative pilgrimage.
“The story I’m writing is about survivors and how they cope day-to-day,” Sherman said. “And everyone on this ship is leaning on each other in some way. It’s amazingly spiritual.”