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On August 21, 2017, Jim Roche was assaulted when a group of several dozen teenaged boys on razor scooters descended upon the campus of Harvard Divinity School as part of “Boston Skate Jam 2.” This menacing group of young people met up to perform daring scooter tricks on private property throughout Boston and Cambridge on a pre-planned route. Their goals seemed to include trespassing on these sites, risking their lives in dangerous skating maneuvers, threatening anyone who might be in their way, video recording their exploits to publish on social media, and skating away to their next destination before the police might arrive. Unfortunately, a group from HDS had just stepped outside to view the solar eclipse for a few minutes when this group arrived on the campus, encircling the HDS crowd as swiftly and as threateningly as the monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. While many of them skated directly at the HDS crowd, one of them deliberately skated directly into Jim, hitting him in the chest and knocking him backwards down the entire flight of concrete steps of HDS’s Andover Hall. The assailant and the others in the group cheered in victory as he tumbled down the stairs, holding their scooters and middle fingers aloft, shouting, “F*** you.” Before they sped away on their weaponized scooters, they encircled Jim as well as the rest of the HDS group and—in what must have been a particular signature of their brand of terrorism—banged their scooters in unison on the concrete and on the wrought iron railings of the stairs in a deafening gesture of triumph.
Jim was left in a bloodied heap at the foot of the stairs with his jaw broken in two places; many of his teeth missing or fractured; a huge laceration to his head that required closure; deep abrasions to his shoulders, elbows, hands and shins; extensive soft tissue injuries; and, ultimately, auditory and bladder damage. The rest of the HDS crowd was also left profoundly traumatized by the callous violence they had witnessed and gravely concerned about and for the young people who had engaged in it. The police immediately began an investigation of this incident and are pursuing it with immense professionalism and attention to detail.
Mercifully, Boston has three Level I Trauma emergency departments, so after a brief assessment at Mount Auburn Hospital’s E.D., Jim was swiftly transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Upon arrival there, he was swarmed by nearly two dozen highly skilled trauma surgeons and nurses for whom he was a respected patient; that experience was, literally, a healing counterpoint to his terrifying ordeal just hours earlier of having been swarmed by dozens of teenagers for whom he was nothing but hunted prey. After five days at BIDMC, where he received magnificent medical, surgical, and nursing care, Jim was discharged to home to begin his long road to recovery. That road will include several additional oral surgeries, repair of his remaining fractured teeth and replacement of his missing ones, some basic physical rehabilitation, and medical assistance to address his auditory and urinary damage. Jim also must be on a liquid and soft diet for the next six months as he undergoes all the dental repairs ahead of him. That these teenaged boys chose as their target perhaps the world’s gentlest, sweetest person (an 80-year-old 110-pound man) seems only to magnify the cruelty of this senseless and especially savage crime. Both Kerry and Jim are heartbroken for these young people and deeply concerned for their welfare, now and in the future. Please join them in praying for these kids.
Jim and Kerry have been utterly surrounded from the very first moment of this assault by countless family members, colleagues, friends, and neighbors who have poured out their love, compassion, and practical assistance upon them. They could not have made it through even one hour of the early days of this horrifying ordeal without every last one of them , and they could not even begin to express their gratitude for the support and care shown to them. They are particularly grateful to Emily Click, Tim Whelsky, Stephanie Paulsell, Kevin Madigan, Amanda Madigan, Leslie MacPherson-Artinian, Katie Caponera, Wilson Hood, Tommy DiCarlo, Jane Ford, Katy Klutznick, and Rick Spalding; but, of course, the profound love of family and countless friends--far too many to name--have sustained and supported them too. They will surely rely upon that goodness and kindness in the months to come as Jim recovers in body and spirit from the deep violence visited upon him. We have posted this page to keep that wide circle of companions up-to-date on his progress [please check the “Journal” section on this site for that information] and on Jim’s and Kerry’s needs [please check “Ways to Help” on this site for that information] as that journey unfolds. If you want to see photos of Jim on his journey, check the "Gallery" on this site, and click on each individual photo to read the captions.
Thanks to the extraordinary hospitality and love of Stephanie Paulsell and Kevin Madigan, two of Kerry’s cherished colleagues who live near HDS, Jim has a day refuge just one block from Kerry’s office so that he will not be alone during the weekdays. These dear friends have also invited Kerry and Jim to stay overnight as needed, an invitation that allows them to travel easily to Jim’s many medical appointments in Boston. The days following this assault would simply be unimaginable without that lavish gift of welcome.
Please know that all the prayers, love, and solidarity extended to Jim have been as healing as any surgical or medical treatment he has received. Every single prayer, wish, card, and gesture sent his way matters. He and Kerry thank you all from the bottom of their hearts. For now, Jim’s condition is stable and improving, but his previously vibrant and uncommonly healthy body has been forever changed. Thank you all for accompanying him in spirit as he strives to recover.