They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice, which is comforting news for people who have survived a traumatizing life-threatening attack or accident.
After walking away from a traumatic terrorist attack that rocked the nation, 1 teenager was terrified but found comfort in the fact that he would probably never experience anything like it ever again. But a few years later, he found out the hard way that sometimes lightning does strike twice…
In April 2013, teenager Mason travelled from Sandy, Utah to Boston, Massachusetts with his father, Chad, to support his mother, Kimberly, as she ran in the 2013 Boston Marathon. On the afternoon of April 15, Mason and Chad found a spot to cheer on runners towards the end of the course.
The Finish Line
As runners passed by that afternoon, Mason and Chad stood and waited for Kimberly to pass them by and cross the finish line. However, just after that happened, 2 bombs were detonated and exploded about a block away from where they were standing…
Thankfully, Mason and Chad were just far enough from the explosion to not get injured. But chaos had broken out after the explosion so Chad brought his son to safety and went out to find his wife. “It had shaken their bodies and he had taken Mason to our hotel and said to stay there,” Kymberly said. “Mason was very calm and composed.”
A Second Chance
The experience was terrifying and something Mason and his parents would never forget but they tried not to focus on the what-ifs and instead focused on the fact that they all walked away unharmed. Shortly after, they all returned to their home in Sandy, Utah, where Mason was a student at Lone Peak High School…
Mason eventually graduated from high school and decided to sign up for a 2-year Mormon mission before going to college to study engineering. For the next 2 years, Mason planned to travel around the world with other missionaries to do community service and convert people.
After the close encounter in Boston, Mason’s parents urged him to be careful during his travels around Europe. “I told him first and foremost always be aware of your surroundings, please be very careful when you’re traveling be very observant to people around you,” said Kimberly, who worried about her son’s safety while abroad…
November 13, 2015
“Mason has always assured us that he is safe and careful,” said Kimberly. However, on November 13, 2015, Mason understood why his parents were so worried about him. That day a series of coordinated terrorist attacks killed 130 people, and left more than 400 injured.
At the time of the attacks, Mason was actually in France just 2 hours away from the carnage. He immediately got in touch with his family back home to let them know that, once again, he hadn’t been injured in the attack and was safe…
Mason thought that after 2 brushes with terrorist attacks, the odds of him ever being at the scene of another attack was highly unlikely. However, when there was just 4 months left in his 2-year mission trip, he found out the odds weren’t in his favor.
Wrong Place At The Wrong Time
On March 22, 2016, Mason had gone to the Brussels airport to help a missionary check in for her flight back to Utah for training. Shortly after the group lined up to check in with Delta Air Lines, Mason realized he was yet again at the wrong place at the wrong time…
Another Brush With Death
That morning, 2 suicide bombers entered the airport with suitcases full of explosives, which they detonated in the check-in area where Mason was standing. “We’d just walked up to the Delta check-in line, when I heard a deafening crack and the pressure from a blast lifted me off the ground,” Mason explained.
The First Explosion
“I landed back on my feet, and my first thought was, ‘Airports don’t just blow up for no reason, what’s going on?’ My second thought was, ‘Holy crap, this is a bomb.’ At that point, I felt the entire right side of my body get really hot, then ice-cold,” Mason said about the moment the first bomb exploded…
Running For His Life
“I could feel a sharp stabbing sensation of shrapnel pelting my body. My hands and my face felt like they were on fire. I was so disoriented. I thought for the first couple of seconds that I had died,” Mason said. “As the fire and flames in front of me dissipated and the smoke began to clear, I focused all of my energy on running out of the airport, despite facing dire injuries, including third-degree burns, numerous lacerations, a cracked heel bone and a ruptured Achilles tendon.” He said.
Waiting For Help
Seconds later, the second bomb exploded but Mason had managed to make it outside just in time. “I made it out of the airport doors and my leg gave out. So, I laid down on the airport sidewalk, in a pool of my own blood.” Mason was on the ground for 45 minutes before first responders got to him and moved him to an airport fire station to be treated…
“I had second-degree burns to the face and there was shrapnel in my head lacerations,” Mason explained. “I actually saw shrapnel in front of my right ear just kind of embedded in my skull that they decided to leave. I had three third-degree burns to my right hand, first-degree burns to my left hand, shrapnel to the legs, and a blast wound on my heel. My left Achilles tendon got completely ruptured. My heel bone cracked in 7 places. It’s a miracle I survived.”
Struggling To Cope
Mason was transported to a hospital in Brussels and then was flown back to Utah on an air ambulance after 6 days in the ICU. During that time, Mason struggled to come to terms with everything that had happened to him. “A torrent of questions assaulted my soul in the wake of the attack,” Mason explained. “Why did this happen to me? Why would someone slaughter civilians so unforgivingly? What was my future going to become? Would I ever be who I once was? What if this happened again? How am I going to get past this? While I was recovering from the Brussels attack, I would wake up on my hospital bed in the middle of the night to gunshots, only to find that they were a figment of my memory…”
Reshaped By Violence
By the time Mason was 19 years old, he had witnessed the Boston marathon bombing, been in the vicinity of the Paris attacks, and was actually injured in the Brussels airport bombing. “These experiences reshaped me,” Mason said. “I will carry horrific memories from Brussels and Boston with me for the rest of my life. The smells, the emotions, the casualties, they aren’t the kinds of things that you can just force yourself to forget.”
Rather than slipping into a depression or letting the trauma control him, Mason worked tirelessly to recover physically and mentally. “I couldn’t walk for the first four months, and, even then, it was with a limp. My doctors told me I’d never run like I used to or have the same range of motion in my hand. But I worked my body harder than I probably should have…”
A Victim Or A Survivor
“During the hardest parts of my recovery I always reminded myself that my future is what I make it, and that I had a choice as to whether I would be a victim or a survivor,” said Mason, whose determination to be a survivor allowed him to pass the medical test and be accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy just 10 months later.
The Gift Of Perspective
Mason is now a midshipman at the Naval Academy, where he studied engineering. He and his family now see everything that has happened as a blessing. “The way we get back on our feet after something like this happens is a true test of character. He was blessed significantly by God. We see a blessing by this, not a terrible curse,” Mason’s dad said. “No matter what we go through, we always have a choice as to how we will respond. Our lives are what we choose to make of them, and by choosing to act we can take our lives further than we ever imagined,” Mason added.