Monday started as a happy, exciting day. The day had arrived, a day we had been waiting for for months. We would see our son Ryan cross the finish line of the famed Boston Marathon. After hours, months, miles and the soreness and tiredness of training, this was IT! We were texting with him as he made his way by bus to the starting line in Hopkington, he was feeling good, this was going to be a glorious day.
Boarding the train in Beverly with our daughter, we were glad to see so many enthusiastic people off to see the race or going to the Red Sox game. The train was packed, everyone was jovial and exchanging banter with each other and the conductor. This was off to a great start!
At North Station, we decided to walk toward Boylston Street, the weather was beautiful and we just followed the crowd heading in the same direction. Walking through the park, we paused to soak it all in. We had decided to settle in as close to the finish line as possible. Shannon, who is a photographer, had packed her best equipment and we were hoping to get as many great shots of Ryan, and his running team mate Paul, as possible. It was getting really busy and people were already five or six deep as the first wheelchair athletes were coming down the street. Everyone was cheering them on and we happily joined in. We found a great spot on the right side of the Marathon Sports Store, against the wall next to Lenscrafters. It was a perfect spot! We could see the runners, yet we were not in the thick of the crowd. We knew we had quite a few hours until Ryan would be there, so we settled in, chatting with the people in the Marathon Store enclosure, which was reserved for their employees and guests. I was envious of their wooden benches and thought how great it would be if we could climb on one of them when Ryan came through, to get a better view. Maybe I will ask them, I thought…
The elite runners came through, and the rest of the pack was starting to cross the line in earnest. We were tracking Paul and our son and knew that they should be arriving roughly between 2.45 and 3pm. We had been standing there for more than two and a half hours, eating the lunch we had brought and cheering on with the crowd, when Shannon asked if we wanted to go with her to the Nike store around the corner. My husband was not particularly interested and wanted to stay put. The two of us started to leave when I turned back and reasoned that we should all have a coffee, find a bathroom and be ready to follow Ryan as soon as he crossed the line. And we did just that, going to the Starbucks on Newbury street. Walking back,we decided to take a right down Boylston instead of going back where we were, as the crowd was a little less dense and we hoped for a spot at the barrier. Within a few minutes, we spotted Paul coming down the street. I was cheering and capturing the moment on my phone for him. I knew that Ryan was right behind!
The next 60 seconds changed all of our lives. The loud explosion left us stunned and wondering what could possibly have happened. Brendan thought the Jumbo-tron had exploded, maybe some massive electrical malfunction had occurred. It sounded like a reasonable explanation, except the smoke was a little ways past the large screen and it just did not seem likely. Before we could have another thought about it, the second blast ripped through the air on our right, making the ground shake and fear took a grip on our heart.
What came next is better left untold. Cameras were rolling and captured the mayhem for the world to see, and the images that are imprinted on my brain are better left alone, to hopefully fade as time goes on. Shock set in, as well as a deep visceral need to find my son, see him and touch him, to know that he was unharmed. He managed to call us about 15 minutes later on a borrowed cell phone, as we were trying to make our way towards the Marriott Hotel, where we eventually reunited as a family over 2 hours later. He had been stopped at the 25.8 mile mark.
The last few days have been a roller coaster of emotions, the very high highs of knowing we are all safe and the very low lows of knowing so many are not. The feelings of disbelief, looking at the pictures and the reality of what took place where we had been standing just a few minutes before the blast. The immense gratitude and thankfulness, but the “why them and not me” questions that keep coming. The lack of control over the emotions, and the surprise crying fits that still come on at random times, the amazing support that friends, colleagues, neighbors or perfect strangers have shown to us.
As a family, we have resolved to deal with this by being open, by sharing our feelings with each other and by practicing love and not hate. There is always a lesson in everything that happens, and the real tragedy would be to move on and not acknowledge that collectively, as a society, we need to change. The capture of the suspect last Friday brought some closure, but with it came more heartache, other victims and the realization that this was not a nightmare, the horror had a face and it was a 19 year old…two years younger than my own son.
As a holistic practitioner, I help my clients deal daily with many different issues, stress being one of them. This past week has brough me to a place I had never been before, having to use all of the tools at my disposal to just get through the day. It has been humbling and an incredible learning experience, one that cannot be learned in a book.
My wish today is that we try to remember to be kind and gentle with ourselves and others, that words do hurt and that the spirit that made strangers reach out and help others is a sign of what we are capable of, even when there is no crisis looming. Hopefully the images will fade to allow sleep to be peaceful once again, but the memory of this day will not. The victims will need support for years to come, long after their story will fade from page one in the newspaper and collectively, we can step up to the plate and help them in a million different ways. We can take care of each other, and we need to take care of them, in a small or a big way, everyone can do something.
We cannot heal until we can have peace in our hearts. From today on, I choose to focus on good, healing, healthy and peaceful thoughts for myself, my family, my community at large and I hope you can do the same.