NASHUA - While Boston Marathon bombing victim and hero Jeff Bauman recuperates in a Boston hospital after losing both his legs in the blast, his co-workers at the Nashua Costco Warehouse already are counting down the days until he can come back to work.
That may happen sooner than anyone might have anticipated. On Thursday, Bauman left Boston Medical Center and moved to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital to begin physical and occupational therapy.
To help Bauman, co-workers have been visiting him in the hospital, sending him homemade cards and posters, and raising money, in part by selling "Bauman Strong" bracelets and T-shirts.
"We are absolutely looking forward to having him back," said Kevin Horst, store manager at the Nashua Costco. "He is very strong, he has a positive attitude, and he has a great family behind him that is supporting him."
Bauman's father and stepmother, Jeff and Csilla Bauman, are Concord residents. Csilla was a longtime restaurant manager at the Bedford Village Inn, which also has been raising funds for the younger Bauman's recuperation.
"I am just speechless at the outpouring of concern and support from this building," Costco's Horst said of his employees. "I am very proud about what they are doing for Jeff."
Horst and other Costco employees are even prouder of Bauman.
Almost immediately upon gaining consciousness after being hospitalized with two severed limbs, Bauman asked for a piece of paper and wrote a note saying he had made eye contact with a man who had placed a bag on the ground just before the first of two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Marathon on April 15.
Bauman's subsequent description of the suspect, now known to be Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was critical to investigators' ability to zero in on Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, from thousands of photos showing countless people. That, in turn, may have prevented the suspects from further acts of terror after the bombing of the Marathon, which killed three spectators and wounded more than 200 others, and the fatal shooting of an MIT security officer.
Horst said he wasn't surprised at all to learn of Bauman's role in the investigation.
"Even at his roughest time, I can't imagine he wouldn't do the upmost he could to help," Horst said. "He is a quick, smart, respectful kid, and it's not surprising that he would do everything he could to get any information he had to law enforcement."
What has amazed colleagues is Bauman's ability to remain upbeat at such a difficult time.
Mike Stewart, a major supervisor at Costco, said that even while in the hospital recuperating, Bauman has shown an innate ability to cheer up his co-workers.
"The other day, Kevin and I set up a live face-time chat with Jeff. Kevin was with him in the hospital, and everyone (at the Nashua store) crowded into the break room, and we plugged (a smartphone) into a big TV, and we got to speak to (Jeff) for half an hour," Stewart said. "Just to see his smile and face lightened everyone's attitude for the rest of the day. It was just really, really cool."
Costco support for Bauman hasn't been limited to the Nashua store. Horst said Costco stores around the country have been sending money, gifts and cards to help lift Bauman's spirits.
"At Costco, we really do consider ourselves a family. The people who work here and shop here know that, and in this case the company has been very generous and gave me some time off to help one of our own who is need," Horst said.
All the money raised at the Nashua Costco for Bauman will be matched by Costco Corporate, Horst added.
In an interview with Boston sports radio station WEEI on Friday, Bauman expressed his gratitude for all the support he's received from his co-workers and employers, and said he was able to use some of the Costco merchandise he'd received to present a gift to fellow bombing victim Sydney Corcoran of Lowell, Mass., earlier this week on her 18th birthday.
Jeff Long, a senior vice president at Costco, said, "We are a close knit community, and people all around the country have rallied to (Bauman's) support with letters, support, and gifts. We feel we are an extended family. When something like this happens, it affects everyone in all parts of the company."
In Nashua especially, support for Bauman isn't just a matter of good corporate policy. Bauman is very well-liked by his peers and managers, Horst said.
"I can't say enough good things about Jeff," he said "He is just a gentle soul."
Horst and Stewart both said that while Bauman is generally easygoing and quiet, he can be talkative with his co-workers and is always willing to provide help to anyone who needs it.
"He has been with us about three years, and he is universally liked," Horst said. "He is a very respectful young man, a hard worker. And while he might be quiet in front of the bosses, his co-workers agree he is not that quiet - in a good way of course."email@example.com