By Mark E. Vogler
---- — HAVERHILL — Jeff Bauman’s name wasn’t listed in the program for last night’s 97th Annual Dinner of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce.
But the 27-year-old Chelmsford man, who became a national symbol of American strength and courage after losing both legs in the Boston Marathon bombings, drew the loudest applause from the 250 people who gathered at DiBurro’s function hall to hear first-hand testimony from a handful of witnesses to the Patriots Day tragedy that galvanized national pride.
The annual dinner is traditionally a celebration of the chamber’s recent successes and the opportunity to communicate to members and the public the future direction of the organization. This year, the chamber added a “We Are Boston Strong” theme, which it noted with a blue and yellow “Boston Strong” ribbon decorating the dinner program cover.
Professionals from the areas of athletics, law enforcement, health care and media who were closely tied to the bombing tragedy attended the dinner. Speakers included North Andover’s Dave McGillivray, director of the race, who addressed an audience for the first time since the tragedy. A discussion panel that included Boston Police Department Superintendent Frank Mancini and Boston EMS Superintendent in Chief Brendan Kearney, was moderated by WBZ reporter Carl Stevens.
Additionally, local residents who administered first aid to bombing victims were honored during the evening.
Bauman attended the event as a Boston Strong advocate and supporter of victim assistance in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. After undergoing surgery to remove his lower legs, he assisted the police investigation by providing a detailed description of one of the bombing suspects.
McGillivray, Mancini and Kearney, all gave riveting accounts of how they and others responded in the aftermath of the bombings that robbed Boston of its innocence.
But the night clearly belonged to Bauman, whose photo in a wheelchair being pushed away from the site of the Boston Marathon explosions, captivated the country this spring.
After undergoing surgery to remove his lower legs, he assisted the police investigation by providing a detailed description of one of the bombing suspects.
“I think someone else earned this medal more than I did,” McGuillivray told the crowd as he began his keynote address, displaying the medal he received for completing his 41st consecutive Boston Marathon — 11 days after the bombing.
“And I want to give my Boston Marathon medal to Jeff Bauman,” he said.
“I also provided Jeff with a Marathon jacket so I hope in the future he finds himself on the other side of the barricade, either participating in the Marathon or helping out as a volunteer for the marathon, because that’s where you now belong Jeff,” he said.
Bauman was humble when introduced by Stevens, who moderated a panel discussion last night.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you guys. You guys are great and continue to be,” Bauman said in a special thank you to the paramedics who saved his life.
Bauman also thanked the crowd for attending to show its support.
“He thanks us for being here. Jeff, thank you for being here,” Stevens said.
The chamber made a donation to a fund supporting Bauman’s recovery. McGillivray donated his speaking honorarium to The One Fund.
The chamber will also make a donation to The One Fund from the proceeds of ticket sales and a special raffle.
The Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, which has begun its 126th year, has close to 500 members. The chamber serves Boxford, Georgetown, Groveland, Haverhill, Merrimac and West Newbury in the Merrimack Valley and the Southern New Hampshire communities of Atkinson, Danville, East Kingston, Hampstead, Kingston, Newton, Plaistow and Sandown.