‘I just felt like I was on a rocket,’ nurse wounded in marathon bombing testifies

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BOSTON (CNN) — A nurse who lost both of her legs in the Boston Marathon bombing opened Monday’s session of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial, recounting how she felt as if she’d been launched on a rocket when the explosion went off.

“I remember being happy, I remember feeling sunlight on my face. I remember feeling free,” Jessica Kensky told jurors in the federal trial. Then the bomb went off.

“I didn’t see anything, I didn’t hear anything. I just felt like I was on a rocket,” she said.

Tsarnaev is charged with 30 counts, including one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.

He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Authorities say he and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, created two bombs fashioned from pressure cookers and projectiles and set them off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.

Surveillance video from several businesses along Boylston Street, compiled by the FBI and shown in court Monday, tracks the movements of two men prosecutors say are the Tsarnaev brothers, including one in a white cap who federal authorities say is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The video shows the man in the white hat placing a backpack on the ground, then walking away as heads turned in response to the first explosion a block and a half away. He looks back over his shoulder, and there is a second explosion. He then runs into the crowd fleeing the second explosion.

Three people died and at least 264 were wounded, including Kensky and her new husband, Patrick Downs.

“There was smoke, there was blood,” she said “I was focused on my husband. His foot and part of his leg was completely detached, hanging on by a thread.”

She used her purse strap to make a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from her husband’s leg.

Then a man came to her and said, “Ma’am, you’re on fire, you’re on fire,” she recounted Monday.

She lost one leg almost immediately. She made a difficult decision to have the second amputated in January.

“I wanted to paint my toenails and put my feet in the sand. I wanted all of those things, and to lose my second leg was a gut-wrenching decision,” she said.

The second witness of the day was Danling Zhou — a friend of bombing victim Lingzi Lu’s, one of the three people to die that day.

She testified about how the bomb had torn a gaping wound in her abdomen, and that she pushed on the wound “with all the strength I had” to keep her internal organs from spilling out.

At the hospital, she asked about Lingzi every time she woke up. Finally, a friend told her that Lingzi was dead.

“I guess everyone found out earlier,” she said. “They were trying to protect me, so they didn’t tell me.”

So far, more than two dozen witnesses have appeared before the jury to offer often heartrending accounts of the mayhem that followed the explosions.

Prosecutors are seeking to paint Tsarnaev as a calculating killer following a radical Islamist agenda to kill and maim as many people as possible.

Defense attorney Judy Clarke acknowledged in opening statements that her client was involved in the attack, but depicted him as a stooge of his older brother, who died after a shootout and chase with police days after the attack.

CNN’s Ann O’Neill reported and wrote from Boston; Michael Pearson wrote from Atlanta.

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