Not surprisingly, I was more affected by the Boston bombing than I initially thought.
I took the AMTRAK home Monday night with my teammate, Michelle and other New Yorkers heading back to the safety of home. She and I kept to ourselves, catching up with social media and email. I could see the news feeds from her screen while I created my blog entry, trying to recall details that were still fresh in my mind. Rachel stayed in Boston so that she could leave for her conference 2 days later in NH. (She was able to take the AMTRAK before it was affected by the city-wide lockdown.)
Once home, I stayed up into the wee hours, unable to go to sleep. Partly because Rachel and I are rarely apart, but mostly because I was experiencing a different kind of “wired”. I avoided news feeds and tried to stay away from social media that focussed on the bombing. Instead, I tried to unwind with random movies in an attempt to succumb to the exhaustion that was slowly building. I finally went to bed around 4 am that first night.
DAY 1 | Tuesday
After about 3 hours of restless sleep, I tried to work, but spent more time watching shows that I neither cared about nor can remember. The hours flew by until I noticed that I had barely left the couch and was still in my pajamas. The apartment floor was starting to gather collections of my personal effects and I was not cognizant of how the situation must have looked. I fell asleep somewhere around 3 in the morning and like the night before, didn’t bother moving to the bedroom or changing clothes. I did brush my teeth, but getting the floss from our main bathroom was too much effort.
DAY 2 | Wednesday
I knew that I didn’t want Rachel to see me this way and knew that I would tidy up the apartment prior to her return on Thursday night, but it was now Wednesday morning and I was functioning on very little sleep. After having already eaten all the fresh produce in the apartment, I had turned to the pantry and had begun eating peanut butter by the spoonfuls throughout the day and night.
I share this because I was in a bad space. I was emotionally in pain and didn’t want to interact with anyone, especially anyone that would ask me too many questions about Boston or worse, having to hear opinions and 2nd hand stories from people who were not even there. I don’t quite understand why some people are so distraught and it’s hard to be around it right now. Our club dedicated the weekly fun run to Boston. I initially wanted to attend, but when it came time, I just couldn’t do it. I had already written the blog and people had already read it. My proximity to the finish line was out there and I wasn’t ready to manage my feelings around the topic.
DAY 3 | Thursday
After struggling to fall asleep around 2 am, I woke up about 4 hours later feeling a bit energized and wanting to run. I changed into a sports bra and running shirt, but kept my 2 day old pajama pants on. True story. I strapped on my Nathan bladder pack and quickly scanned my pants to make sure they at least looked relatively clean. I headed straight for the North Woods and spent a nice time running around in circles among the school groups, tourists, dog walking owners and the homeless. I headed out to the bridle path and pretty much kept to myself, wearing one of Rachel’s running hats low on my brow to help conceal my face. I really didn’t want to interact with anyone I knew.
I had packed some reusable totes in my pack to carry home some produce. Bravo was pretty empty and when I went to check out, the cashier and the bagger were pouring over photos of the Boston carnage in the free newspaper. Knowing that they had difficulties understanding me (one spoke very little English and one was deaf), I told them that I was there.
I told them that I was very close to the 2nd bomb and that if I hadn’t gotten lucky with a nice big spot right on the fence, around the corner from the finishing stretch, I would have been where the 2nd bomb went off because that is where I was heading.
I cried on the way home because for the first time in 3 days and from my own mouth, I was hearing facts about the bombing as they related directly to me. It wasn’t just about being angry that some A-Holes fucked with the therapeutic nature of our sport or sad for the deaths and significant injuries. I was shaken in a way that only comes when you realize that being in the right place at the wrong time was somehow just meant to be.
Thanks to Cesar and his PR connections, I got a call from a reporter wanting to come to my apartment to interview me. Based on the preliminary questions over the phone, it sounded like PTSD was her angle. I waivered about it only briefly before agreeing to be a part of her story. I told her how I hadn’t been out of the house for three days, hadn’t been sleeping and yes, I actually admitted to her that although it had now been 5 or 6 hours since my run, I still hadn’t showered because I had been feeling down following my trip to Bravo.
I never showered AND cleaned the apartment so fast, throwing piles of clothes on the bed knowing that the mess would be concealed behind a closed bedroom door, but also knowing that I would have to do something with that pile before Rachel returned home a few hours later.
I couldn’t have asked for a more picturesque and gloriously sunny day to cheer at the 117th Boston Marathon. It was suppose to be an overcast and chilly 57˚, but being in direct sunshine across the street from a series of well-staffed fundraising tables complete with 15 port-o-johns, made for the most ideal cheer conditions. Rachel and I got to mile 16.8 early enough to see most of the hand cyclists, followed by the elite women and then the elite men. Although they are really incredible to watch up close with their effortless-looking form and perfect strides, it is the average Jane’s and Joe’s, who really command my attention. They come in packs of 50+ at a time and if it wasn’t for our easy-to-spot singlets, finding our teammates would be sooo much more difficult. Luckily, we found almost all of ours including Michelle, which upon first site, was Rachel’s cue to jump in to help her finish her first Boston. I stayed to spot Cesar, our last teammate on the course who was running as an Achilles Guide for his friend, Tony. Once I spotted him and had my photo opp, I was on the move.
I jumped on the T and headed to the finish where I quickly found my spot on the corner of Hereford (Massachusetts Ave) and Boylston Streets, the last and final turn of the course. When you make this 90˚ left turn, the finish line is a mere 4.5 blocks away—it’s downhill and it’s perfect. I had a great cheer spot, especially after “Ted’s” posse cheered for Ted, leaving me with front row viewing and a spot for me to hang my big rainbow flag. I saw a teammate across the street, but kept my eyes fixed on the course, knowing that Michelle and Rachel were due fairly soon. It was fun to recognize runners that I had seen back at mile 16.8. They remembered the flag and gay vest and they in turn helped orient the pace clock I was using to not miss my runners. After I recognized the thin girl with far too many clothing layers and thick, white sunblock on her face, the rest of the race seemed to move in slow motion.
I was cheering on the right hand side, so runners were coming from my left toward the 90˚ turn toward the finish. The turn was just to my right, but far enough that I did not have a clear site of the finish line. The buildings that create the finishing “tunnel”, obstructed that view. The girl with the layers passed by me and, but while I tried to look for Rachel and Michelle among the runners, I couldn’t help but follow the gaze of the other spectators, who were looking beyond me toward runners who had passed. I turned and saw what they were looking at. The girl with the layers had collapsed exactly at the turn and was on her knees. Around the same time, we heard the first explosion. It was very loud and it sounded very close, like it was off to the right of where I was standing. We all turned, but saw nothing, there was no smoke or anything alarming. It definitely was not a car exhaust or gunfire–I’m not an expert, but the sound was far too concentrated and loud. I actually thought it was construction-related. The girl was now lying on her back and being helped by EMS/race medics when we heard the second explosion. Again we questioned the noise, but seeing nothing alarming, continued to look for our runners. The very next time I turned to my right, “layer girl” was not only surrounded by medics, but a large number of runners who seemed to be bottle-necking the turn. I thought, “what a shame that they would be missing out on finishing the race because the medics were in the way–wow her condition must really be serious, I hope she’ll be okay”. I don’t know what was wrong with her and I don’t think that her condition had any connection with the explosions, but the runners looked confused, with hands in the air, upset from having to stop so near the finish. At least 50-60 runners that I could see, were stopped dead in their tracks, prevented from making the turn. That’s when the quick-moving officials came down the center of the race course, right in front of me telling everyone to evacuate and move quickly. It was confirmed that there had been an explosion, though I could not recall what level of “Official Personnel” first made that announcement. I left the rainbow flag behind when I couldn’t untie the last loop. My only thought in keeping it was in finding Rachel and Michelle easier and I thought that the flag would help make me more visible or help keep us warm in the now chilly air.
UPDATE: Both times, the explosions sounded like they were coming from behind the building to my right that created the last 90˚ turn even though both explosions actually occurred after the turn and to the left. We now know that those two bombs were left in garbage cans near and at the finish. My guess is that the “tunnel” created by the buildings bounced the sound off of those buildings so that when our heads were turned to the left, we were given the impression that the noise came from behind us. I think this could account for why we saw nothing amiss; no smoke, no fire… nothing after those initial blasts. Later, when we were allowed to leave the evacuation area, we passed by Hereford Street again. I couldn’t see my rainbow flag, but we could see the smoke that had traveled out of the finishing “tunnel”. – Anyone care to elaborate on the movement of sound waves?
I headed down to Commonwealth Avenue and finally got word from Rachel that they were shivering pretty near where I was already standing. Turns out, the texts that were coming thru were lagging behind by about 5-10 minutes, which in a time of uncertainty, can feel like hours. I was so glad to find them and we could relax a bit knowing that we were reunited. Michelle and Rachel were very cold, so I shared my down coat and all the warm accoutrements I had. A volunteer handed out garbage bags to wear or sit on and a golf cart equipped with a sound system tried as best he could, to keep us informed. Strangers handed out pretzels and salty snacks and offered up cell phones to runners, most of whom had checked theirs at baggage. Luckily Michelle did not check anything, so when we were informed that the race was officially over, we followed the crowd back to where the buses and baggage were parked. Everyone was calm and those of us with cell phones, walked slow enough to text without lagging too far behind. We headed to HEALTHWORKS, the lady-gym that allows female finishers to shower for free. We had dropped Michelle’s bag off in the morning, so she was one of the lucky ones. They were also kind enough to charge my cell phone while I waited for Michelle to shower and for Rachel to return with our luggage that we had stored at our friend’s office a mile away. We know now that one explosion occurred 3.5 blocks away from where I had tied the rainbow flag and one at the finish line – this is a pretty good map, though I suspect it will be obsolete soon enough.
Thank you to everyone who reached out with well wishes for me, Rachel, Michelle and our team. I am especially grateful to everyone who lent a hand in the text/facebook/twitter/email chains necessary to reunite runners, cheerers, and volunteers who went silent during the most uncertain of times. It really did make a difference, especially for families watching snippets on the news.