A new HBO documentary details the emotional and physical challenges survivors have faced in the wake of the deadly 2013 terrorist attack in Boston that rocked the nation

September 30, 2016 10:45 AM

It was 2013 and they stood near the finish line on a crisp April afternoon: Mothers and children, newlyweds, brothers, all cheering on friends and family who were running in the Boston Marathon.

Then the unthinkable happened: Two bombs exploded, killing three people and wounding more than 250 others at the marathon in what the nation and the world would soon learn was a terrorist attack – on U.S. soil.

On Nov. 21, HBO will debut Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing, a documentary that details the emotional and physical challenges survivors have faced ever since. The documentary’s first trailer premiered Friday, exclusively on PEOPLE.

Featuring clips from home movies and surveillance footage and exclusive interviews with first responders, investigators, survivors and others, the documentary chronicles the lives of a newlywed couple; a mother and daughter; and two brothers and their mother as they navigate their new reality.

Filmmaker Ricki Stern, who directed the documentary with Annie Sundberg, tells PEOPLE it was that aftermath that they were interested in exploring.

“We’ve seen all these incidents of terrorism attacks around the world and you hear about people who were killed or injured,” Stern says. “But we don’t hear about what happens afterwards and the concentric circles of reverberations of these kinds of attacks. That’s what interested us and HBO.”

News comes and goes very quickly, says Stern, “but the people who have been directly impacted by something like a terrorist attack or an IED, homegrown or otherwise, they live with that for rest of their lives. That was what we really wanted to tell.”

Stern and Sundberg, who have worked together for years, produced the documentary in association with The Boston Globe, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the bombing.

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Sundberg says she and Stern set out to tell a different story: “There was a desire to celebrate a welcomed recovery, a relief that the people of Boston had reclaimed a certain necessary part of their collective identity,” she tells PEOPLE.

“But for the survivors of the Boston attacks there is a profound long-term impact on each of them and their families,” she says. “This film was an opportunity to explore the grey zones, how people navigate grief, healing, relationships and identity in the wake of a senseless act.”

Marathon shows how grim the survivors’ reality became after the bombing, Stern says – and how they faced that reality with courage and hope.

“We wanted to tell the story of these survivors – the resiliency and the strength – but also that it’s not always a pretty picture or a Hollywood ending,” she says.

“It’s a struggle. But in the struggle, the human spirit and strength and courage of these individuals and their families having to come together is what we found so inspirational.”

Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing will premiere on Nov. 21 (8 p.m. ET) on HBO.

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