When Scott Russell tells his bomb blast story, there is no “poor me” or “pity me” in it.
Shrapnel from the 2008 blast—when Scott was police chief in Woodburn, Oregon—almost severed his right leg and severely injured his left leg.
A piece of shrapnel also penetrated his chin, broke his jaw and came out below his right ear.
Scott survived being in a coma for seven days and numerous surgeries, many on his left leg that now has little or no feeling. His right leg is a prosthetic.
He says he is fortunate to be alive. The bomb blast at a Woodburn bank killed two law enforcement officers, one of them a dear friend of Scott’s.
The survivor has told the story many times during the past 12 years. If there is any bitterness toward the two men who made the bomb, he keeps it hidden as he describes his life since that life-changing day.
“When I woke up from the coma, I was really shocked,” Scott says. “I had to decide whether to be mad or to let my faith in God help me get through this. I looked back on my life and believed he had prepared me for this. In my profession,I had seen the way too many families and individuals had been impacted by tragedies.
“I was alive and wanted to move forward. It took me a while to forgive, but I was able to. There was no time to be stuck in ‘Why me.’”
Scott acknowledges the families of the two officers who died in the blast had it tougher than he did.
The two men who made and left the bomb at the bank were arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced to death.
“They are suffering the consequences of their actions,” Scott says. “They’re getting what they deserve.”
Scott’s goal was to be active and to return to his job at the Woodburn Police Department. His wife, Cami, quit her job as a legal secretary to give him her full-time support. She drove him to Oregon Health & Science University in Portland three times a week for rehabilitation sessions.
When Scott was in the hospital recovering from another surgery, the couple’s two daughters visited and did homework in his room.
Nine months after the blast, Scott was able to pass tests that allowed him to resume his police chief duties. He says his biggest challenge in recovery was keeping his balance because his knees and ankles had been drastically compromised. He had to learn to balance himself with his hips.
“I try to keep a positive outlook,” Scott says. “It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it, how you respond to what has happened to you.”
Scott explains his law enforcement work, his faith, music and working to be able to again enjoy outdoor activities helped him through the years.
He was a cross-country runner back in high school at Benson Tech in Portland. As a young adult, he ran in the Portland Marathon twice, the Seattle Marathon once and on a team in the Hood to Coast Relay a few times.
Scott also hunted deer, ducks and upland birds while a young man. His work and then his injuries put those activities on hold for many years.
His recovery included playing guitar during services at North Marion Fellowship and helping lead men’s ministry.
“I don’t see how you can navigate life without believing in something bigger than you,” Scott says. “Life becomes pretty dark if you don’t have belief that ultimately what happened to you is going to serve as something good at some point.”
For the past seven years, Scott has been a volunteer with Amputee Resource Group. The group holds monthly meetings for amputees, caregivers and family members. Its mission is to help everyone “get back to some sort of normalcy.”
“The group encourages me because there’s always someone worse off than you,” Scott says. “You work with new amputees and try to help them cope. You let them know you can do a lot of things you want to do, maybe just a little bit different. You encourage them to get out and keep trying.”
During recovery, Scott took up cycling, using a three-wheeled bike for many years before modifying and adapting to a two-wheeled bicycle last year. He put magnets on the pedals and on the bottom of his shoes to stay connected to the pedals. His goal is to participate in and complete a 100-mile ride.
Since retiring from the Woodburn chief position in 2015 after 28 years in law enforcement, Scott has been able to do some big game hunting.
His goal was to put his tag on an elk.
Scott went big game hunting last December with the help of friend Leroy Miller. David Morris, owner of Northwest Big Game Guide Service in Eastern Oregon, provided guide service.
With the help of guide Dustin Brigham and an all-terrain vehicle to get him over some rough, snow-covered ground, Scott took a few shots and dropped a cow elk. Although he tried to get up to the animal on the snowy hillside, it was too slippery and he had to wait for Leroy and Dustin to pull the elk down to him before he could put his tag on it.
“Scott was very excited,” Dustin says. “I feel like he was pretty amazed it had all come together like it did. It was a cool opportunity to work with someone like that, to make it possible for him to get his first elk. He was determined and ready to go.”
“To me, it’s inspiring to see a person who could have been watching TV get out there and kill an elk,” David says. “He probably should have been dead (from the blast), but here’s a guy with a prosthetic leg out hunting in the snow giving it his best.”
Scott’s next hunting goal is to tag a bull elk. He admits having a disability and now being age 57 means he’s going to have to work extra hard to accomplish that goal as well as the 100-miler on his bicycle.
He says he’s up to the challenges, just as he has been in his life since that bomb impacted him 12 years ago.