It is still weird to me that in a small way our lives intersected with a serious piece of history, that from now on we’ll tell people that we were in Boston, that I ran that race, when it all happened.
In some ways it feels like a close call. What if I’d had a bad race and was still on the course? What if Micah and Abby and the kids had been closer to the finish line? But it also feels like we were a million miles away. The race was in our rearview mirror when the bombs went off. We didn’t see or hear anything of consequence. From our perspective, the tragedy unfolded very slowly: with shops in the mall closing in the middle of the afternoon, with the fire alarm lights flashing, with people being herded out of the mall, and then, finally when we were outside, with everyone on their cell phones and the word “explosion” being used too often to have been coincidental. We went back to our hotel room to find out that the race had been suspended and not everyone would get to finish. That’s when we knew this was pretty serious business. But still, the local news was – rightfully – hesitant to use the word bomb. There were two explosions. It could have been a gas line. It could have been something else. The unfolding and the impact were softened even more.
There was little we could do. Most of downtown Boston closed. We had no idea if there would be more explosions, but we knew that there was no point in going out. We took the kids to the hotel swimming pool and spent the next couple of hours responding to texts and calls and letting everyone know that we were okay. We definitely appreciated all those who reached out and checked in and were concerned for our well-being. And we felt bad that while you were all worried, we were splashing around in the pool and making no plans to shorten our stay.
By the next day, things had changed. We felt that there had been time for things to settle down, for sweeps to find any more bombs, for security to have made things safer. In fact, we spent the next out and about in Boston. There were SWAT vans outside our hotel, yes, and we had to show our hotel key and ID to some officers in order to go down one of the streets, but for the most part, everything was normal. It was a peaceful, beautiful day. We saw the “Make Way for Duckling” sculptures. We walked to Bunker Hill and had a picnic with some friends. We got cannoli at Mike’s Pastry shop.
There were, however, two times that day when we felt like maybe we were a little crazy, that maybe we should go back to the hotel. The first was soon after we left the hotel. A lady who was working on some construction project (I think) was on her phone. She was crying and saying that they were closing the road, half to us and half to the person on the other end of the line. We wondered if they had found something else suspicious, but decided just to change our route and go a different way. And then, at the duckling statues, a man was tying balloons for kids. He’d kind of staked out his spot and had been there a while. Then he noticed a black backpack on the bench next to him. He asked who it belonged to, then asked again. By the third time, those who heard him were starting to get nervous, me included. And then someone spoke up. It was his. We all breathed a little more freely.
Micah and I felt we handled the situation as well as we could and tried not to make a big deal out of it. After all, it was practically a non-event as far as our little family was concerned. But on Friday morning, when we were back home in Brooklyn, we read the news about the manhunt, the chases, the killings, etc. and that’s when we started to feel a little unhinged. Perhaps that is because we were no longer in Boston and could not see that, for most people, it was just another snow day, another day of waiting inside. And being on the other side of the equation, where we could only imagine what it was like in Boston, our minds went a little wild. We were so relieved when the hunt was over and, once again, we could breathe a little more freely.
In the weeks since the marathon, I have been a little blown away by how much support there has been for Boston and the running community. I feel privileged to be a part of that community and to see the small ways that people have shown their solidarity and compassion. It is, of course, surprising and tragic that the bombers would choose an event in which there is so much love and perseverance and humanity-at-its-best to cause destruction. But it also provides an opportunity for us to see that more clearly, and to see that the bad choices that people make and the destruction they leave is so small compared with the good choices, and the encouragement and love that people offer, even to strangers.