Maria Mitousis, whose life was thrown into upheaval when a mail bomb exploded in her hands three months ago, has publicly thanked everyone who came to her aid that day.
The 38-year-old Winnipeg lawyer lost her right hand and suffered injuries to her face, chest, thighs and left hand on the morning of July 3, when she opened a rigged package.
It was one of three bombs, triggered through recording devices, that were sent through the mail. All three targeted women.
Speaking to reporters at the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service's training academy, Mitousis thanked the first responders and her law office staff who helped her in the moments after the package exploded.
Mitousis said her meeting with officers and paramedics on Wednesday was emotional, but one that she believed was important.
"They're the ones who got me through that morning, and I wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to share with Winnipeggers that I believe that we're truly fortunate that we have these people, with their expertise and integrity, right here among us, and our city's well-equipped to manage all forms of crisis," she said.
"Certainly what happened on July 3 was something unprecedented and quite shocking. I still have trouble grasping the reality of it, but I know it happened."
Mitousis said in the moments after the blast, she remembered telling herself to take a deep breath and remain calm.
She said the people who came to her aid were brave, calm, organized, professional and reassuring, which helped her and her colleagues deal with a crisis situation.
"It was something about the way in which these individuals comported themselves that gave me courage, and I think it gave the women who are in my office … we went through this together, and they gave us the strength," she said.
"I did not know at that time whether I was going to be OK or not. But in the very long minutes, I knew that I was, at least for that time, safe and in good hands."
Mitousis, who was right-handed, said she has had to adapt to using her left hand in daily life. As well, she is dealing with extensive burns from the blast.
While she said the explosion has been a difficult experience, she's making sense of it.
"These things happen. Tragedy happens, crazy things happen, and I don't think, 'Why me?'" she said.
She thanked the medical professionals she has been working with as she recovers — a process that she said is going to take some time.
"Each day is different and it's challenging and I've had to get used to a very different me, but I'm optimistic," she said.
"I'm not finished with our health-care system and there's things I have lined up in the next while…. I've just had great care to this point and I'm very confident that I'm going to be OK, but I'm also mindful of the fact that some days are better than other days."
As well, Mitousis thanked everyone who have provided emotional and financial support since the incident.
"The tremendous generosity of my colleagues, friends, family, members of the public has given me the means and the time to continue my recovery," she said.
"I'm grateful for that gift of time and for the wonderful people who have contributed and helped me."
Smiling at her friends and colleagues in the room, Mitousis said her goal is to eventually return to her law practice.
"I know enough not to set that bar too high or set timelines that are not realistic," she said.
Accused bomber remains in custody
The accused bomber, Guido Amsel, 49, is charged with three counts of attempted murder, one count of aggravated assault and a number of other weapons and explosives charges. He remains behind bars after being denied bail.
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Mitousis, who at one time represented Amsel's ex-wife in divorce proceedings, underwent 12 hours of surgery following the blast.
A second package, intended for Amsel's ex-wife, was detonated by police July 4 at a business on Washington Avenue. No one was injured.
The third bomb was detonated by police near the law office of Orle Bargen and Davidson on Stradbrook Avenue on July 5. The lawyer who represented Amsel in the divorce proceedings used to work there but had since left the firm.
Amsel's lawyer has said that his client intends to plead not guilty to the charges.
'Winnipeggers have your back,' says mayor
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman commended Mitousis for her strength and thanked first responders and police for their work in the days following the incident.
"We are here with you in your road to recovery, and you continue to inspire," Bowman said to Mitousis. "Winnipeggers have your back."
Before Mitousis spoke, reporters heard from police officers and paramedics who were at the scene of the bombing.
Const. Paul Barker, the first police officer to arrive, said as soon as he found Mitousis injured in the law office, he called for backup, evacuated the building and performed first aid on her.
Once Mitousis was in hospital, Barker said he assisted her family while she was undergoing surgery.
"In my short time with Maria … she was calm, even under these extreme circumstances, and she made my job and our job that much easier," he said.
Emergency workers spoke of how much co-operation there was between city departments in response to the bombing.
Keith Hancox, a tactical emergency paramedic who responded to the bomb call, called Mitousis "a very brave person" and marvelled at "how well she dealt with everything that she was put through that day."
While some people have described Mitousis as a hero, she disagrees.
"I think the heroes are the women who were there," she said, referring to her office staff.
"I knew what I had to do, but no one signed up for that. And for the women in my office to get me through it — that, to me, is extraordinary."