marathon bombing

“It just doesn’t make sense,” said the mother of a 29-year-old victim of the Boston Marathon bombings.

No, no it doesn’t .  But when does a bomb exploding in a civilian-heavy area seem like the norm?  Luckily, not in the United States, but the out-of-the-norm happened on Monday, April 15, near the finish line of the legendary Boston Marathon in the heart of Downtown Boston – to deadly and horrific effects. Someone planted two bombs that exploded on Boylston Street and killed three people, one of them an 8-year-old little boy, while injuring over 175, according to reports.

It was my co-worker, who has been talking to me about running in recent weeks as she tries to incorporate it into her weight-loss routine, that asked me if there was a race in Boston on Monday. “Yeah, the Boston Marathon is going on right now.  It’s one of the biggest marathons in the country.  Why?”

“There was a bombing there.  Do you know anyone running?”

In that moment, all color left my face, my stomach sank and I scrambled for my phone. I opened Facebook and the first status update I saw was, “What kind of coward plants a bomb at the finish line of a marathon?”

WHAT?!  I read on.

“Prayers for those in Boston.”

“Please post to Facebook if you’re in Boston and OK.”

“Thoughts and prayers for the victims of this senseless tragedy.”

“Thinking of everyone in Boston right now.”

“Friends and family, I’m alright.  Thank you for the texts and calls.”

I knew people running, quite a few, actually, so I tried typing in names to see if they had posted anything to their timelines.  Fingers shaking, I discovered that, blessedly, most of my elite runner friends who had raced posted updates indicating the bombs went off well after they had finished and they were back in their hotels, on lock down, but safe.

I looked up and saw a TV on in the corner of the deli we were in and I watched the horrific footage of the first explosion, which knocked one runner down on the course and injured and scared so many more. Then, moments later, a second explosion sped up everything.  Initially runners were still heading toward the finish line as though the first explosion was some sort of accident. The second explosion seemed to impart more terror and fight-or-flight response in many, who started sprinting (as best a marathon finisher can) towards the finish, but not in an effort to finish the race, rather, to escape the danger.

As I watched and read, I felt my eyes well up.  I had no control over this visceral reaction to human tragedy, especially one that isn’t far removed from my own personal connections, and I just let myself cry at a table in a deli. In front of my co-workers.  In front of everyone.   I didn’t care, and I usually do.

My phone started buzzing and I saw text messages from friends and family asking if I was doing alright and extending various thoughts of condolences to me and my runner friends.  Me? Was I alright after this awful event?  No, not really. But my emotional well-being was not the focal point if this whole event. The fact that those close to me knew that I, myself, was not running the marathon, but that I might be hurting because of my strong connection to the running community meant so much.  It was the sentiment that I really appreciated, though I wished to just pass it along to the people who were directly affected in Boston.

It turns out, that extension of concern and willingness to help in any way was more than present in Beantown. Businesses opened their doors to allow people to charge their phones, grab a bite to eat (and pay only if they could), and simply rest in the aftermath of the bombings. Race volunteers took on new roles as they rushed injured people in wheelchairs to the nearest emergency room. Race fans helped unknown people in need.  After 26.2 miles, some racers even ran through the finish line and straight to the hospitals to donate blood. Donate blood after 26.2 miles without a thought of their own well-being, but that of others?  Wow.  I know how I feel after running 15 miles without the intention of donating blood, so the thought that donating after a marathon at such a frenzied and chaotic time was top of mind to those people is a true testament to the human spirit and inherent generosity present in times of need. Simply amazing.  I think about it and I am humbled.

I left work early on Monday because I felt shaken and I couldn’t focus. Learning about the bombings and subsequent fire at JFK Library (later proven to be unrelated) tore my attention from editing and back linking. I got home to the news already on TV and sunk into my couch. I watched in silence as reporters broke updates every few minutes.

Andrea Parker Parkersplash Race Shirt

#bostonstrong in a University of Michigan Silverston Invitational T-shirt.

What do you do at a time like that when you just feel broken and unsettled? I was bothered by the bombings and the fact that they were set to explode at a time and place that would incur maximum injuries and deaths: at the finish line of one of the most well-known marathons, during a time in the race that often has many runners finishing and plenty of people cheering them in. Who does this?

As the sun set, I reached for my computer to finish a few items that were left undone on my work to-do list, but I opened Facebook first. At that point, all unaccounted for friends and friends of friends had been deemed safe and unharmed, which didn’t provide me with the sense of relief I thought it would.  Just to see what people were saying, I scrolled through my news feed and felt a smile creep across my lips as I took in updates of candle light vigils before 1 mile runs to honor the victims of Boston and a campaign to wear a race shirt the next day to honor Boston.

Amidst all of the horror, heartbreak and intentional pain inflicted that day, human spirit showed its beautiful face in the form of support from people of all kinds.  Runners, non-runners, friends, those who sympathize with loss, those looking to help in any way they can – pretty much everyone I know, especially the runners.

It blows me away each time there is some kind of tragedy, whether nature or terrorist-made, to see how much stronger people are than those few moments of destruction. The willingness to overcome, move on, but honor those that were lost speaks so highly of who we are as human beings and knowing that we don’t stay down for long, especially those in the running community, makes me feel more whole and less shaken.