My cousin wrote a wonderful post on Facebook last Monday on the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. She has kindly allowed me to share with you her post.
Tomorrow, April 15, is the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. I have such a mix of emotions as I reflect back on that day. I love Boston… It’s a proud city, full of history, great food and fanatic sports fans. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a goal that many distance runners strive for, and the 2013 Marathon was no different. DW had worked hard to qualify for this race, his fourth time running the Boston Marathon, as had his dad, LW.
We had a great lead up to the marathon; I had been released only days earlier after a comprehensive battery of cardiac tests to begin running again. The BAA 5K, held the day before the marathon, was my first run in a few months. I was ecstatic that I actually managed to run the entire distance. We went to a Red Sox game with LW and our friend who had recently relocated back to her hometown from Chicago. Back at the hotel DW laid out his race dummy and double checked that he had everything he needed for the marathon the next day.
I am not a big fan of crowds and I had learned from my earlier experience as a spectator at the marathon. My plan was simple last year- get to the finish line area early enough that I had a great spot to plant myself and watch the runners as they finish the race. And that’s exactly what I did. I found the perfect spot standing behind a mailbox right between the 26 and 26.1 mile markers, about a block away from the finish line. I arrived around 9:30 and remained in the same spot for close to five hours.
People came and went around me throughout the day. I talked to some and ignored others. It was busy… A lot of people, a lot of runners, a lot of noise. DW finished with the first wave of runners, and I was waiting for LW to finish his race with the second wave of runners. A man who had clearly enjoyed some time in the bar behind us came to stand behind me and was cheering LOUDLY for everyone.
I was getting a headache from all his yelling and was checking my phone constantly for the message that Leigh had crossed the finish line. That’s when I assume the picture that is in the latest issue of Runner’s World was taken. At the time, and up until a week ago when the magazine was delivered to our door, I never realized just how lucky I was. In the RW photo the bomb is circled, the younger bombing suspect is circled, and the survivor the article is about is circled, but it was the mailbox that caught my eye. And the guy yelling. And me… Checking my phone.
I have known for a year that I spent most of that day standing in the blast zone, but until last week I never knew just how close I had come to being an active participant in a life-altering or life-ending experience. It is both terrifying and humbling.
Today I am thankful for many things… I am thankful that both DW and LW are incredibly fast runners and both had finished the race before the explosions. I am thankful for
the race tracker software that lets you track runners by their bib numbers, so I knew shortly after LW crossed the finish line. And I am extremely thankful for the man who had been served a few too many cocktails who had been screaming in my ear for the past 40 minutes. If not for him, I may still have been standing 5 feet away from one of the bombs when it exploded.
As it was, I left the area with about 10 minutes to spare and had just walked into a bar a block or so away that was our rendezvous point when the first bomb exploded. It was three hours before I could confirm that both DW & LW were safe. Calls and texts wouldn’t go through at all for a while, and then I would receive random texts, out of order. Everyone in the bar was ordered to shelter in place while the wounded and dead were rushed to area hospitals and the initial hunt for the bombers got under way.
Once released, I was able to get directions to the hotel from a very shaken, yet still helpful race volunteer. The runners who had finished the race sat on curbs comforting runners who didn’t have an opportunity to finish. I watched an older man take the medal off from around his neck and put it on a young woman’s neck, telling her it was more important to him that she know she finished the race.
People were terrified, but they were out there helping one another get through it. There was the constant wailing of ambulance and police sirens everywhere. I had to stop several times at road closures to ask for directions again and again to get to the hotel, and everyone I spoke with took the time to help me. I cannot say enough good things about the city of Boston and the people who call it home. I will be forever grateful to the help and care they offered to me and others that day.
LW qualified to run Boston again this year but DW missed the adjusted time by 11 seconds so we won’t be there next week, but many of our friends will be. DW has plans to return to Boston to run the marathon again (and again) and I will be there, too, standing somewhere near the finish line cheering him on. I refuse to live my life in fear. I choose to celebrate life and all the adventures and opportunities I am blessed to have had over the past year. Remember the victims, encourage and celebrate the survivors and run. Run for all those who are no longer able to.