The Boston Marathon-Forever Changed

Apr 2013

Yesterday I spent the late morning watching the elite runners cross mile 18 on the race. I’m not a runner, but can marvel at these athletes as they passed by, seemingly effortlessly. It was a beautiful day for a race.

Later that day I was at Mass General, trying to support someone I love dearly, when I decided to get some fresh air. I had brought my camera with me, in hopes of taking advantage of the nice weather. I walked for a bit, and as I crossed the bridge over the Charles River a few minutes after 3 pm, helicopters, sirens and black SUVs descended on the area. It was as if time stood still and suddenly all was in slow motion. Everyone was on their cell phones, looking around trying to figure out what was going on, but it was obvious that this was not part of the regular Boston Marathon. I was torn between getting back to the hospital, and watching what was unfolding before my eyes. My phone couldn’t make calls, but was erupting with text messages that I struggled to see in the bright sunlight. I spoke to foreigners on the bridge, who in broken English, said something about two bombs and the finish line. As I made my way back to the hospital, the pit of my stomach convulsed and I tried to text replies to family members. People were swarming down Charles St., runners with Mylar blankets, officials from the race and just a wave of everyday people. Some looked like they were in shock, others were crying and people were shaking their heads in disbelief. It was now 4:03 pm as ambulances screeched into MGH, and I saw my first TV report of the horrifying events that had taken place.

How do you process something like this? Today I am back at MGH, as our time there yesterday was rescheduled to make room for all the victims of the attack. The TV in the waiting room is relentless with their coverage and replays and I am in need of some positive energy. This is the loop I took on a walk in my beloved Boston the day after.

While there were K-9s, military and camera crews at every turn, what I wanted to see was people. And people I saw; walking the streets, walking the Public garden, kids climbing on the Make Way for Ducklings statues. I was sure that this event was not going to stop people, both Americans and all the foreigners in town for the Marathon, from living their lives, however vigilant they might now be.

I had a lot of time today to think about the role fate plays in events. What puts a person in a set of circumstances that changes their life forever. What is the reason, how does it question your faith?

This statue of Wendell Phillips, a civil rights leader, captured the spirit of Bostonians and what we are feeling today, especially the symbolic parallel of the winner of the marathon crowned with a laurel wreath, symbol of peace and victory, and the quote on the statue whether in chains or in laurels, liberty knows nothing but victories.

It is not lost on any American that this act of terrorism happened on Patriots Day, but the last thing that will happen as a result will be for us to be held hostage. Ordinary individuals doing heroic and extraordinary things, that’s what we saw yesterday. A shining moment for the city of Boston, standing tall in the face of horror and hate to demonstrate their love for life and liberty.