It’s hard to put into words just what today meant to me. I’m not a native. I’m a transplant from Washington, DC, and I didn’t even marry a Bostonian – I married a native of New Hampshire. But, in many ways, I’ve become a Bostonian over the last 16 years that I’ve lived here, and it’s home to me as much as DC is home. (For a native Washingtonian, that’s saying something BIG.)
The first April after I moved to the Boston area, I worked in Copley Square and didn’t quite get why I got Patriots Day off (Patriots Day – what’s that?!) until I realized that my office was at the finish line and there was no earthly way employees could get to work en masse on the Commonwealth-wide holiday. So, I did what any other local would do: went drinking with friends at a nearby pub and then took a break to stand in front of the Hynes Convention Center cheering on the runners who made their way down the homestretch of Boylston Street headed for the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
I quickly caught on to how it works: even if you don’t know someone running, you root for everybody. You latch onto something about the runners and you give them the gas to make it those extra few blocks until they can finally drop from exhaustion. You clap and cheer – screaming at the top of your lungs. You see someone flying by you wearing shorts made to look like their country’s flag and you shout out a personalized cheer (“Ciao, Italia!” got a huge grin from one runner). You read their shirts that tell you their names and you call them out – verbal juice for these amazing individuals.
You see, while the media covers the winners of the races – the people who claim the medals – they completely miss the other winners. Everybody who runs the race is a winner, as are all of the charities they run for. Once you get outside the small “elite” pack of runners, the overwhelming majority of bib-holders are running for a charity. These are usually medically-related, like Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and the fundraising minimums are stiff – typically in the low-to-mid four figures. These runners have been marathoning long before they got into their running training, holding fundraising dinners, raffles, auctions and whatever else it takes to make it happen.
And then came the year when I decided to do my first marathon. I knew I couldn’t run it because my knees would never make it, so instead I walked it. I did it under the auspices of the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk because I would get to walk the same hallowed course that the April runners get to tread. I would go where they went and do what they did (albeit in a far longer stretch of time). The first year, I was in tears coming down Boylston into Copley because I didn’t know if I could finish…but I had to. The second year, I was exhilarated because I came into the finish line STRONG, beating my personal demons back. This third year…I will be somber. And sad. But I will finish, because that’s what you do.
When I was first contacted by a frantic friend, texting me concerned that I was in or near the city, I had no idea what was going on. I was in meeting starting right around when the explosions occurred, 50ish-mi south in Providence, RI, and I didn’t have a clue of what was happening in my adopted hometown. Once I heard, I went numb. Then I panicked – wondering where my friends were. I had frequent twitter correspondence friends at the finish line, like Elizabeth Comeau from Boston.com and Adam 12 from RadioBDC. I had friends of many years near the finish line, who were celebrating the Red Sox win with their traditional Marathon viewing. And I was scared for all of them.
As I checked Twitter, people started to give check-ins and tweet back messages that they were okay, since the cell system was so overwhelmed that Twitter was working where SMS was failing. It would be hours before dh would hear that the members of his triathlon club from our local Y were all okay – painful hours of wondering and waiting.
I can’t describe adequately how I feel right now. I’m numb. I’m sad. I’m horrified. I’m angry. I’m devastated. I’m so filled with hatred for whoever did this. I’m so proud of the City of Boston and everyone who claims a piece of it tonight. You don’t have to be FROM Boston to get why it’s a big deal, or why Patriots Day should be important to all Americans, or why the Boston Marathon is so…INCREDIBLE. So I’ll just leave it at this:
I will walk my 26.2 in September, treading in the same footsteps as those who ran today, and I will remember how lucky I am that I can do that. I will remember how lucky I am that all my friends escaped this without so much as a scratch. I will grieve for those who are lost and I will send my wishes into the stars that those who are injured are able to heal quickly. And I will continue to marvel at the awesomeness that is Boston and feel so lucky to be a part of it.