Processing Boston

One editor’s takeaway from April 15, 2013, and your invitation to share the same.

It’s taken me a week to write this down. I think it’s mostly because I wasn’t sure what to say, meaning, I didn’t have anything worth saying. I was, after all, relatively secure completing the 117th running of the Boston Marathon in a solid 3:36. And while I was two blocks away when the first bomb went off with a hollow, echoing boom a half-hour later, waiting for my friend who’d crossed the finish line barely 5 minutes before, I didn’t see any of the carnage. I didn't even see the smoke. It was not my ears ringing. Not my legs buckling. Not my flesh ripping. Nor was I equipped or present to cinch tourniquets. I didn’t think to run another 2 miles to Mass General to donate blood, though I certainly could have. I wasn’t there to hold hands or speak soft words of encouragement and hope into the ears of the 179 injured. I was insulated by no fewer than three large, stone, historic buildings. My story was like tens of thousands of others: I was safe. And I knew within a minute that my friends were, too. Still, there had to be something from this experience I could bring back, something I could share. And throughout the past week, as my friends meticulously tracked their routes from that fateful Square, engaging all sorts of social media, I remembered the race and was reminded of what I thought at mile 18, an hour and a half before the blasts prematurely rocked what should have been a jubilant day into the history books. It’s the people. I’d long read about the crowds at the colleges, the beers handed to runners on the course, but until I was experiencing it firsthand, there was no understanding like the epiphany I had at mile 18: This is why we run 117 years in a row. It’s not the runners. It’s the residents. And so I take from Boston 2013: Faith. Faith in a higher being, of course, for as savage as the plight of 179 souls has been, 100,000 were spared. And also faith in things that runners know: Faith in self. Faith in the mind’s uncanny ability to will the body to places never thought possible. Faith in each other. Faith in the runner at your side on the bus to Hopkinton, in line awaiting the privy, in the corral before the gun, on the long hills to Copley. Faith in the athletes who chat you up candidly and casually, whether you’re wearing ear buds or not. Who process your story, and who drag your aching body across the finish line, knowing you’d do the same for them on any other day. Faith in Pam, the runner who brought my friend safely in 5 minutes before—and more important effectively clearing my friends from their vantage point on the north side of the street. But mostly, it’s faith in humankind, as exhibited by the spectators. It’s the Bostonians who came out in droves on their day off to cheer us 28,000 strangers onward to in many ways a selfish ambition. These were the people whose roars flooded my senses, not just at innocuous mile 18, but at every foot of the 52 miles lining the race course, often 10 people deep. The man on stilts. The children on trampolines. The families with Twizzlers, FreezePops, oranges and Vasoline. And the people under the flags of all the great nations who didn’t deserve to be blown apart, but who resiliently and defiantly are rising again. It’s the medical personnel, the Boston Police Department, the firefighters and bomb squad and every person who ran—ran not 26.2 miles, but 26 feet back into the fray, the smoke, the blood, the raining glass. To help. It’s not my phrase, but it’s my favorite phrase: We will run again. Tiger Oak Media’s community lifestyle publications would like to hear your stories this week, this month or whenever you feel ready to share them. Consider this your forum.