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One Week Later: Reflections from 2 Blocks Away
One Week Later: Reflections from 2 Blocks Away
One week later, and five are dead, some 180 injured and an entire metropolitan area is changed forever.
We all know what happened on April 15, Marathon Monday, Patriots’ Day of 2013. Two bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I saw the explosions happen from about two blocks away. The chaotic moments that ensued - and the looks on people's faces as they changed from joy to fear and grief - I won't soon forget.
The Boston Marathon is such a beautiful event. People of all ages, shape, size and ability come from all across the world to run this race. Spectators stand along the street cheering and applauding everyone who passes by, no matter how fast or slow. The point isn't how quickly you finish, but rather, that you did it! And everyone is there to celebrate your accomplishment. It is a joyous, heart-warming, feel-good event.
Being relatively new to the Boston area, this was only my second time watching the event. Last year, I saw it from an office building on Boylston Street, where I was temping at the time. This was my first time watching it up close and personal.
I was there with my boyfriend to cheer on our friend Jason, who was running in the race. Accompanied by Jason’s wife, sister and parents, we stood along Commonwealth Avenue near Hereford Street, holding signs, applauding the runners and soaking up the celebratory atmosphere on that cool spring day.
Then there Jason goes – with a smile on his face – eager to make that right on Hereford and left on Boylston to finish the last and most exciting leg of the race. Moments after he passed us by, we all hugged and parted ways. His family was heading to the family meet-up area. Kevin and I were going to stroll around a bit, perhaps find a bathroom and a bite to eat.
We walked over just a couple blocks to Boylston Street, and that’s when it happened: BOOM! It sounded like a canon and we could see the white smoke. Kevin and I looked at each other. “Is that part of marathon?” he asked me. I wasn’t sure. It could be a special effect of some sort. Then a few seconds later, and another blast and more smoke. “OK,” I said. “I don’t think this is supposed to be happening.”
There was silence and a sense of confusion. We were close enough to see the explosions, but far enough to where we didn’t know what was going on. Police in the area hadn’t yet reacted, so we thought it couldn’t be anything too serious. Then two girls came darting down the street. “Someone’s shooting a gun, run!” they shouted. (Of course, we now know that wasn’t the case, but that’s what they thought was happening.)
Some people in the area took their claims seriously and began running the opposite direction; others kept walking in the direction of the explosion; and yet others stood there in disbelief, not really sure what to make of the whole scenario. Then the sirens, lots of sirens. And shortly after, tears, lots of tears. And that’s when we knew things couldn’t be good, and a chill came over my body.
What just happened? I wasn’t sure. Like everyone else around us, we turned to our phones, but all lines were down and we couldn’t get Internet connection. We walked around, growing increasingly worried. A truck parked near the Christian Science Center had its door open and the radio on. We could hear the reports coming in: “The street covered in blood; arms and legs everywhere.” That’s when panic really set in. Jason would have been right in the area when the explosions occurred. And what happened to his family? They couldn’t be contacted and their whereabouts were unknown. I couldn’t speak.
It wasn’t until much later when I learned that Jason had crossed the finish line just 30 seconds before the first bomb went off, and that he and his family were alive, unharmed and well. That was a relief. Still, I knew people had been hurt; people had died. And as reports came in of the injuries and casualties, my heart couldn’t help but ache. I was stunned, saddened, shocked and afraid. We all were.
A little later that evening in my East Cambridge neighborhood, I heard yelling on the street. I looked out my window to see a marathon runner, still in his racing garb, crying frantically, “No! No! No!” His hands clasped his face as he paced back and forth along Cambridge Street. I can only assume he was expressing anger or had just received some terribly bad news.
Then that’s when I witnessed the power of the human spirit. An elderly man with a gray beard – a familiar face in the neighborhood – was sitting on a bench across the street. He reached his arm out, pulled the marathon runner to his side and whispered something in his ear. In what was no longer than a two-minute conversation, the elderly man had quietly consoled the other before the runner waved goodbye, said thank you and was on his way.
Indeed, the people of Boston, Cambridge and Watertown are strong. But we are stronger with neighbors at our side. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all the victims of last week’s violence. We’ll hurt, we’ll heal and I have a feeling – through the strength and support of our communities – next year’s marathon is going to be something miraculous.