Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thoughts on Boston '13

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mothers’ words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world".- Fred Rogers

This took too long to write, and in part it’s because there really are no words to describe how I feel right now. As a marathon runner who has run the Boston Marathon 5 times and has strong familial ties to Boston, I feel I have to respond. But where are the words? Perhaps there are no words because I can't even describe to myself how I feel.

I wasn't in Boston this Patriot's Day, but I was the week before. I didn't cross the Finish Line painted on Bolyston Street on Monday, but I did the week before. I wasn't in Marathon Sports during Marathon Weekend, but I was the previous Sunday.

It's 2004, (or any one of 4 other years I ran Boston), I am struggling as is the usual Al-mode at 25+ miles. I make the right turn onto Hereford and two blocks later, make a left onto the fabled Bolyston Street. The noise echoing off the buildings is  positively deafening. Spectators are packed 8-10 deep on both sides of Bolyston and yet, above the maddening crowd I can hear "Dad, dad". I look to the right and jumping up above the first three rows of people as if on a pogo stick, is my son, Michael. All is much better with my immediate world as I head to the finish line. He is jumping in front of the Mandarin Hotel. The Mandarin Hotel is very close to where the 2nd bomb went off Monday. That extremely happy memory of a decade ago hits me in the gut today. What if...?

Why do horrible things keep tarnishing and hurting people, places and experiences we love? 

We all know what the finish line of a race symbolizes -  pride, achievement, gratitude, fortune, happiness, relief, and hard work. The finish line is where we reunite with those that care about us, and where we share our hard sought accomplishments with perfect strangers who just happen to finish in the same general time we did.  That line means so much. And now for that line to become a place of horror and carnage is surreal, disgusting, saddening, maddening. To watch that older gentleman, just feet from the finish line, get blown off his feet and to the ground was devastating.

Watch the video from the finish line again. Or like me, just replay it in your mind. Now, at the moment just before things changed, pause it. Whisper to yourself, “There’s a bomb somewhere in this picture". It's almost mesmerizing as you look into the cheering crowds waving their arms, look at the runners at their glorious moment of triumph, and well deserved relief, and look at the police and volunteers with little to do but share in all the physical happiness of the finish line. Whisper again, "There's a bomb somewhere in this picture". Then hit PLAY one frame at a time. It is so damned scary! 

Last Sunday, I was running with my friend, Larry and we both agreed that one of the things that makes running so enjoyable is that the running community is filled with genuinely good people. While running is very much an individual sport in many respects, we all strive to celebrate and triumph together, united by a common pursuit. Whether celebrating a first 5k, a PR, or a lifelong pursuit of crossing the finish line on Boylston Street, we all train, race, and celebrate together. They say bad things happen to good people. It appears more and more that bad things happen to all people. At least that's how I feel today. Part of what we celebrate inside us has been taken away.

I had many friends doing Boston this year. I thank God they are all safe. I pray for the ones who weren't as fortunate. Like I said...I have no words. I'll see you all on the roads - AL   

"One child lost is too many...one child saved can change the world" 


Run, Karla, Run! said...

Al, what a perfect quote from Mr. Rogers. Thanks for sharing.

AL said...

Thanks Karla. This tragedy has affected every runner. Looking over again and again at that video of the time of the explosion, it's amazing to see the First Responders, spectators, and even runners running towards the carnage immediately instead of away from it. Always look for the helpers!!