One year ago, on a beautiful sunny day, a homemade bomb exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, took the lives of 3 young people, injured 264 people, and forever changed the way America thinks of crowded events. 4 days later a citywide shutdown and massive manhunt led to the death of one bomber and the arrest of the second. But even after the arrest, the city needed time to heal.
9 days after the bombing, I was on a plane to Boston on a prearranged work trip. I was eternally grateful to have left the kids home this trip. The city was still stunned and I had been working hard to protect them from the news. But I myself was still in a state of shock. While not a marathon runner, I do run and have participated in several 5Ks and the Bay to Breakers 12K. The excitement of a race is contagious and it’s no wonder people want to be a part of it and feel the energy. I have always felt safe in these crowds and loved the excitement that comes with race day and being a part of something that is so large. Watching the footage of the bomb tore away that illusion of safety. Seeing a picture of a panicked mom pushing a stroller while fleeing the scene tore my heart. I often run with my children in the jogging stroller, even on race day. Can I do that again?
I needed to mourn for myself so one night after work I made my way to Copley Square. As I walked around the impromptu memorial, taking pictures and mourning with with the crowd, I had the foresight to sit down and write what I was seeing and feeling at that moment.
“I came to Copley square to see the memorial. I wanted to pay my respects, but what I did not expect (but should have) was to be so overcome with emotion. From the first letter I read I was caught. A man writing to his unborn child trying to figure out how he will explain this senseless tragedy to him. As a mom of two small children it hit me right in the gut. How will I explain it? At some point they will be old enough to ask. And I will have to tell them evil people exist. And I won’t have a reason why.
It was the little things. It was the running shoes and the hats. The messages of hope and the messages of extreme sadness. The candles people lit. The coins and stones. The crosses and saints. The flags. The notes from children and those who obviously knew the victims well. The four crosses bearing the names. Martin, Kristy, Ying, and Sean*. Famous not for what they did in life but how it ended in such a tragic way.
I felt a fool crying like I did. But I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t imagine if it was my child. Or my friend or sister. Or my dad.
So many were here, the same as me. Some taking pictures, some leaving notes, some joking and smiling at a happy memory, some somber. Many in tears or close to it. One who couldn’t handle it and broke down devastated.
I wish I had had something; something to leave, to say I was there and I had paid my respects. But I didn’t. So I used a sharpie left around and wrote a message on message board there for that purpose. And then I left.
I went and paid my respects as I planned to. But I didn’t get my cathartic release. Instead I feel more emotional and as lost as I had before.”
I admit, after the tragedy my husband and I discussed if we should change our upcoming plans for Bay to Breakers. In the end we decided that we couldn’t let fear get the better of our lives. So on May 19, 2013, a little jittery and prepared with more contingency plans than usual, we participated in Bay to Breakers, each of us pushing a stroller. We did it for ourselves and as an act of solidarity with Boston. It took us one step further in the healing process.
Today, 1 year later, I thankfully have not had yet had to explain the fact that evil people exist to my children, though I’m sure my son is getting an idea from Disney and Pixar. My husband and I plan a primary and secondary meeting spot should we get separated at a large event. And I can’t visit or think of Boston without thinking of the Boston Strong attitude and resilience that permeates through the people.
Today may we all be Boston Strong.
* Sean was an MIT police officer killed in an attack by the two bomber during the April 19th manhunt. While he was not killed in the bombing, he was included in the makeshift memorial.