Wednesday, April 17, 2013
It is amazing just how quickly things can change. I first found that out on September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers were taken down by terrorists. The world changed that day. I guess sadly the world changed again on Monday. It makes you wonder why things happen the way they do, why some things don’t happen, and what goes into both.
When there’s an attack on your country it hits you. If there’s an attack in your state it hits you harder. If there’s an attack that effects your family it hits you hardest. Let me start by saying that my Uncle Steve and Cousin Kathleen are both all right but they were there in the line of fire during the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
Obviously we live in a changed world since 9/11 where things like this can happen. Still, who would have ever thought there would be a day where bombs were exploding at the finish line of a road race? Think about that. These were not politicians. These were not soldiers fighting. These were not any sort of authority figures. These were runners, average people for the most part, who when they were so close to completing a huge task of running a marathon then found themselves being pelted with shrapnel from explosives. This was not Iraq or Afghanistan, this was Boylston Street.
I had tracked my Uncle Steve online and was updating friends at work about his progress as I was so proud of him not only running Boston at Age 60, but doing it after recovering from a fractured hip. It was a truly inspirational story. I am certain there were many other runners with similar tales of redemption but this one shares blood with me so it stands out.
As I stated at the top it is amazing how quickly things can change. I had seen my uncle’s finish time and posted a proud note on Facebook for everyone to see. I had shared his time with folks at work and put my phone away. Only minutes later I had been alerted of the explosions at the finish line. We gathered to watch the television and my heart sunk. It looked like a scene from a movie or at the very least a bad dream. It was no accident, it was no coincidence, someone had bombed the Boston Marathon. This was real.
I immediately tried to get a hold of my uncle. I told my mother about what was going on and she tried to get through to her brother. Panic set in as it got to twenty minutes with no reply. I knew that he had crossed the finish line somewhere around 2:46pm, I had no idea of when the bombs had gone off. I had no idea if he might have finished and then gone back to the finish line to await friends. People at work tried to say he was okay but I was not so sure. I said until I knew he was okay he was not okay.
Thirty minutes passed, injury numbers began to be posted and with no word from my uncle or cousin I could only hope they weren’t a part of those numbers. As the replays of the bombings and immediate aftermath played on a seemingly continuous loop my mind began to wander. I could easily put myself in the shoes of those affected. I am a runner and the Boston Marathon is the Holy Grail of races, the ultimate goal for many runners including myself.
Forty-five minutes passed with no word from my uncle or cousin. Word got out that cellular service had been shut down in the event that the bombs had been cell phone activated and there were more around. It was chaos. I began to get texts asking about my uncle. Maui, my friend of 20 years, said his wife had friends in that area that had yet to be heard from as well. With tens of thousands of people coming together for the Boston Marathon it was harder to find people NOT affected than it was to find those affected.
I tried to keep my cool to little avail. Emily, as she always does, did her best to calm me down. Only after did she tell me she was just as worried as me. She offered to come down to my work to be there for me. I posted another message on Facebook this time asking anybody who might have any info to post it, anything was better than the uncertainty.
Finally after an hour we got word that both my uncle and cousin were all right. Only minutes later word of casualties at the finish line came out. It turns out that my uncle had crossed the finish line roughly five minutes before the bombs went off. That is not a very long period of time.
It was hard to fathom that ordinary people, running a road race, had been murdered by some evil coward/s. I run all the time, and have run many races including a marathon, and never once did I feel my life was in danger. How does that change going forward? I have dreams of running all of these big time marathons in my future, and sadly I do wonder how safe they will be. However, it will not stop me from running them.
Later in the evening, after a long work day, I was finally able to sit on my own and think. Sitting on a chilly fishing pier on Bass River I found myself wondering why some things happen, and why some things don’t happen. When Emily said she had thought that it could have easily been us there on Marathon Monday it was not lost on me. When I first started running my goal was to run the 2013 Boston Marathon with my uncle, I even made a sort of motivational poster for myself on the day of the 2012 race to remind me what was ahead. It was not lost on me the fact that my goal time for the race was 4:05-4:10. The bombs exploded as the race time read 4:09. I had injured my Achilles during the Cape Cod Marathon in October and therefore did not qualify for Boston and I could have gotten in through an exemption thanks to my boss at work but did not want to risk further injury.
If all had gone according to my goals, my aspirations, I would have been there in the middle of that horrific scene. This is not about me, or about playing What-If games. This is just about how close to home this tragedy has hit. I feel it and will always feel it.
My heart hurts so badly for the families of those who were killed going to watch a road race. It’s supposed to be a happy day and a safe event. My heart hurts for those grievously wounded, losing limbs and facing an unimaginable recovery process. My heart hurts for those who went there to run or watch and now cannot or maybe will not anymore due to fear, I will not blame them for that.
I will do all I can to be there on race day next year by any means necessary. I will run for those who cannot. It is amazing just how fast things can change.