Sonya Sorich: High school classmate Jessica Kensky Downes reenters my life through Boston Marathon tragedy

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comApril 23, 2013 

Of course I remember Jessica Kensky.

We were in the same Spanish class at St. Francis High School in Sacramento, Calif. We had to choose a Spanish name, and I think hers was Lola. I'm pretty sure she played soccer.

When we first met, I was a freshman and Jessica was a sophomore. I thought she was one of those girls whose friendship could significantly improve my social standing. I bragged when she said hello to me at a school dance.

We didn't talk much after Spanish class ended. I never had an urge to look her up on Facebook or Google her name.

Jessica lost her left leg below the knee during the Boston Marathon bombings, according to The Boston Globe.

Now known as Jessica Kensky Downes, she and her husband, Patrick, were spectators at the race. They ran the Boston Marathon as strangers in 2005, according to an article in The Alcalde, the alumni magazine of The University of Texas.

They watched this year's Boston Marathon "to reminisce about their 2005 run and celebrate the city's biggest sporting event. When the bomb went off, Patrick was standing behind Jess with his arms wrapped around her waist," the article notes. Patrick also lost his left leg below the knee, The Boston Globe reports.

I found out on Facebook. Someone linked to a Sacramento TV station's piece about the couple's injuries. That's also how I learned Jessica worked as a registered nurse in Boston.

At press time, an online fundraising effort had raised more than $600,000 for Patrick and Jessica. A Facebook campaign, Patrick and Jess Running Again, encourages people to post messages for the couple. The Facebook page had attracted 4,900 "likes" at press time.

I'm one of them. I hit "like" when I wasn't sure what else to do.

We weren't best friends. I don't know her family. I have no recent memories of Jessica.

Still, I can't stop thinking about the high school class we shared.

Jessica sat on the opposite side of the room, though our desks faced each other. We wore school uniforms, so maybe that's why I assumed we'd all face identically uninterrupted futures.

Life disagreed.

I recently ran a 5K in Jessica's honor. Doctors say all Boston Marathon bombing patients who made it alive to a hospital seem likely to survive, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Jessica and Patrick were sent to different hospitals, but recently "had their first real phone conversation," according to the aforementioned article in The Alcalde.

Jessica has taught me about resilience. But she reentered my life through events that lack a logical explanation.

More than 15 years after we met in Spanish class, I'm once again searching desperately for translation.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at or 706-571-8516. Visit to read her columns.

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