It’s 4:15 in the morning, and I can’t sleep.
I was there. RIGHT where it happened. Mile 26.
Before I came to Boston, Marathon Monday was something I had never even heard of. I had no idea of its significance and was pleasantly surprised my freshman year, 5 years ago, to have it off. It was only in the last few years that I really realized how it wasn’t just another holiday in Boston, it was a day so significant, that the ENTIRE city shut down.
As of last year, I was lucky enough to land a great co-op at a physical therapy clinic where not only my boss ran the marathon, but tons of patients. In the heat of that ridiculous marathon Monday, I, along with my coworker, waited and watched as thousands of hopefuls saw the final stretch; the final .2 to their 26. Waiting there brought about a stream of emotions I never even imagined. I was overcome with joy, as well as tears, as I watched runners struggle through their final minutes. Old people, young people, people whose families jumped in at the last second to help them cross the finish line, young college kids, soldiers, people with prosthetic legs, people in wheelchairs— it was all SO inspiring.
This year brought about an increased excitement. Excited to bring my friends who had never witnessed the beauty that is the marathon. A day that brings the entire city together; a day that makes me now feel at home. With the stresses of the end of our undergraduate year, we pushed them aside, got ready and walked the quick 10 minutes to Boylston to watch the marathoners. The finish line is the most inspiring and heartwarming place to be at this time, but something stopped me. Everyone asked to go to the finish line, but for some reason I felt the need to tell them that we should just wait at mile 26. My reasoning was that all the families were going to be waiting at the 26.2— little did I know that this was a blessing in disguise.
We found a great spot, right outside of Hynes Convention center, and decided to wait there. Thanks to the BAA and technology, I was able to track people I knew, and waited eagerly to cheer them on when they made that final turn onto Boylston. But then it happened. A huge blast of smoke, right at the finish line. It seemed like a firework at first. But then the second blast came- a huge cloud of smoke and then fire. I, along with everyone around me, froze. And then ran. It was like you see in all those action, end of the world films. But I can’t even explain what was going through my head other than utter fear and the need to get as far away as possible. We grabbed hands, in silence, and ran. We ran back to campus, and went to our local restaurant/bar to catch the news and find out what the blasts were. I wanted to believe it was a mistake; wanted to believe that it was an electrical fire, or construction or ANYTHING except a bomb. But the coincidence and the proximity to the finish line made me feel otherwise.
The next few hours are a blur. Watching the same 2 blasts on TV. Watching marathoners that we remember passing us, fall to the ground. Watching as volunteers, cops, and medical professionals, ran TOWARD the blast. Toward the victims. Something that didn’t even cross my mind.
Still in shock and disbelief, I was happy to be able to get in touch with my parents before news even hit of the bombings, and let them know I was okay. Hearing the sound of my mother’s voice, and getting texts from my dad- I had never been so grateful. The images and reports on TV were numbing. I was RIGHT there. This was a street that I walked on multiple times a week.
My last 5 years in Boston have been nothing short of amazing. I’ve grown into the adult I am today, and would not trade my experiences and this city life for ANYTHING. As much as my small little Connecticut town is always HOME, Boston is my other home. My home away from home. The place I give all the credit to. And as I watched, over and over again, all I could think about was how upset I was that someone would mess with my home. A place so sacred. A city so strong and hopeful. A day so respected and anticipated by all.
The number of phone calls, texts, emails, facebook messages that I received. The number of phone calls my family received. Unreal. I was so numb, but so truly touched by the amount of people that reached out to make sure I was okay. People I had lost touch with. People I didn’t even know that knew I lived in Boston. And I was so thankful to be able to tell them that I was okay.
I’m still in shock. I’m scared. I’m sad. I’m discouraged.
As happy as I am to be okay, I almost wish it was me suffering, as opposed to the innocent runners, families and bystanders. I’m upset at myself, as a future medical professional, that the only thing I could think to do at the time was run as far away as I could, as hundreds of people could have used an extra hand. I’m sad for the people who were just a mile away, and those who were still running, who were forced to stop, with no answers. I’m scared and discouraged in our society and the world we live in today; that we have to be on such high alert for events as inspiring and near and dear to my heart as a marathon. THE marathon.
But more than anything? I’m proud. Proud to be from Boston. Proud to have been there to watch the marathon. Proud of the selfless work my fellow citizens and medical professionals did and are doing to help. We may be a city, but its times like these that make it feel like a small neighborhood. We are strong. We are resilient. And we’ll be okay. As much as I wanted to go back to Connecticut and be with my family, I was so happy to be here. And to be with my Boston family- who, without words, feel the same way about our city.
Yesterday was hard. I won’t sugarcoat it. I barely slept, and woke up just being glad to see the sun shining and happy to see a new day. As beautiful of a day as it was, which brings every student out of hiding, there was an uncomfortable silence that hung around campus. We all wanted to move on, but the feelings were just too fresh to push aside.
This is a time where I should be sad and excited about the culmination of my undergraduate career. But instead, I’m just numb. I want so badly to help those that were affected by this tragedy. I want to go to the hospital and visit. I want to do ANYTHING.
I hate that this time in my life is tainted. I hate that Boston’s most prestigious event is tainted. I hate that people’s perception of Boston is tainted.
But regardless. I love it here, even more than I did 2 days ago, and so glad to be spending my next few years here. I’m glad that everyone I know is safe, and so glad to be able to write this post. First, the Newtown shootings, 20 minutes from my home, and now this. In front of my eyes.
To all of you reading this. Hug your loved ones. Tell the people you love how you feel. And as cliche as it is, treat everyday like its last.
As I head to my last day of classes as an undergrad, I couldn’t be more proud to have spent the last 5 years in this city. So blessed to be okay after seeing my life literally flash before my eyes- so thankful that I am going to officially finish my undergraduate career and graduate from college. So lucky, so happy, so sad. But SO proud to be a Husky and a Boston resident <3
Have a great day everyone!