15 April, 2014

One Year Later: The Finish Line, the Marathon, and Moving Forward

Love us or hate us, the city of Boston is a city of influence. We have some of the most loved (or hated, depending on who you ask) sports teams; we're a veritable title town. We are the city with the shot heard 'round the world, that revolted by dumping 342 chestfuls of tea into its harbor, that created the first American public beach, that sent its highway system underground and its healthcare system out to everyone. Boston is also home to the oldest continuously running marathon in the United States where one year ago today, at 2:49pm on April 15, 2013, my family and I watched the first bomb explode at the finish line.

As a kid, I grew up on Marathon Monday. Nearly every year, my family would take a special trip out to Boston and explore my parents' old stomping grounds. We'd cheer on the runners at Boylston, all wearing various colors, costumes, and expressions of exertion. We'd wait for local celebrity Dick Hoyt to cross, pushing his son in a wheelchair as he had for more than two decades. But I don't remember much from the 2013 Marathon. All those minutes blur together in a haze if I try to concentrate on them too hard. People assure me this is normal.

Bombs and disease, anguish and death occur in many cities, appear in nearly every newspaper; it seems to be an increasingly inescapable aspect of modern life. After the bombings, I struggled to read the news for many months. My mom says you can't feel for every person or you'd go mad. And for a little while, I think I did. Boston did. We searched for answers, finding few. But I was lucky that day. Unscathed, shaken but unharmed, running from the finish line stands, a 5 year old in my arms, my nephews, my sister, my mom, my friend beside me.

Sometimes, right as I'm about to fall asleep, I can see the flash of white smoke in front of me, the feeling that the hot air made rushing at my chest. In these recollections, there is no noise, and I'm grateful for that silence. Intuitively, I know others must feel the way I do. Mothers worrying for their kids at crowded events, people worrying when their friends, family, lovers don't respond right away. These situations were probably always there before, but I didn't see it, didn't feel it. Myself, I worry that my nephews will remember too much of what they saw, the red on the pavement, bodies running against each other, the force of panic. I worry about how easy it was for two people to hold an entire city in fear. I worry there will be copycats.

But for all the pain and suffering, there are silver linings of hope that I cling to, things that represent a happiness untouchable by any act of aggression. The people from the area and around the world that donated over $70 million to the One Fund. The fact that James Costello, while undergoing treatment for severe burns after the bombings, proposed to his rehabilitation nurse Krista D'Agostino. Stories of people running into the chaos to help, not knowing how many other bombs there were. I will remember Sean Collier, and forget the two brothers.

In six days, I will be at the finish line again. I will be with my mom and my dad, my new fiancĂ© and millions of others watching in the city and across the nation. Together, we will cheer on my twin sister, Rachel, who will again be running Boston's 26.2 miles alongside thousands of charity runners. They will be running for cancer research, the One Fund, the Red Cross, Alzheimer's research, and many other organizations that bring hope to this world. We will be there to watch them cross the finish line for the moment they should have had, we all should have had, last year.

Marathon Monday has always been a proud day in Massachusetts. For the past 117 years, marathoners and supporters have come to my small, beautiful city to celebrate the human spirit. And with the world watching, the city of Boston will run again.