This final post-marathon post should have been one of triumph and gratitude. The gratitude part is there — both to humans who supported us before and during and cared for us after, and particularly to G-d, who decided for whatever reason that our work here is not yet done. You can stop here and just read the post about gratitude, if you want. In fact, I encourage you to. But I also feel the selfish need to tell the rest of the story, so here it is:
Jesse was around the corner from the finish line, and I had already passed the final mile marker when the police closed the course and started turning people around. They sent in a bomb squad in full suit, a la The Hurt Locker, and most of the police and EMTs from the course, and shut down streets and public transit. Police, who had their hands full responding to the immediate area of the blast, instructed runners to inform others along the course. So, amid a stream of dazed, sobbing runners, Jesse walked back along the course to find me and our teammates. Cell phones were shut down initially after the incident for security reasons, so at first we were not sure whether my mother had continued to the finish area with our kids, but we eventually learned that she had managed to find a cab to take them home from Chestnut Hill Ave., where I had last seen them.
We learned from an MBTA driver whose bus had just been commandeered that public transit was shut down, so we started walking toward home — a run that we had both done in training, but never after going 25+ miles first. All of our warm, dry clothes were at the finish, but we eventually found an aid station where volunteers gave us Mylar space blankets. Jesse helped me to keep moving through hysterics and nausea, and then the crush of calls and texts when cell service was restored. Co-workers, family, people from our synagogue, clients, an ex-boyfriend in London, people whose numbers I didn’t even recognize, frantically asking if we were ok, and if we knew where the kids were. After a couple of miles, we arrived at a coffee shop across the river where I could settle my stomach and we could stay warm while waiting for a ride home. Having nursed a calf injury for a lot of my training, I had pessimistically tucked a $20 in my pocket in case I DNF’d. I had no idea.
Although we didn’t finish the race, we both feel grateful that we were slow enough not to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. However, the triumph of going 26.2 miles and more on Monday, of raising nearly $24,000 for those most at risk of homelessness in Massachusetts, all of that rings hollow. It feels like we didn’t do enough, because nothing we do now can bring back the dead, or the lost limbs, or restore the sense of joy and safety that used to accompany Patriots Day in Boston.
Yesterday, as we rode into town to reclaim our belongings from the finish area, we saw other marathoners on the T, proudly wearing their race shirts and medals as they returned to Chicago, Seattle, Nashville. They congratulated each other, compared notes on their finish times, and finished with, “Isn’t it a shame. So sad.” Then they got on planes and went home. Squinting in the springtime sun, we slipped our unworn medals into our bags, walked past the news vans and crime scene tape, and went home as well.
Boston is home for us and for our family. The Boston Marathon will go on, but it will never feel the same. If we run it again, it will be as a memorial for those who died, and in honor of those who will bravely go on with prosthetic limbs and traumatic brain injuries. When we read the banner than always hangs on the church by the finish line , we will no longer see it simply as inspiration, but understand it in its original context of comfort and resilience:
Those who hope in HaShem
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
Ways to help:
The One Fund – Official fund started by Gov. Patrick & Mayor Menino to help victims
Children’s Hospital Marathon Fund – Emergency and Trauma fund, which helps kids and families get the emergency treatment they need when faced with tragedy.
American Red Cross – Schedule a blood donation or support their material and emotional support services.