There’s a certain feeling that long-distance runners get when finishing a race. This sense of elation and uneasiness, sometimes even nausea, is known as the “runner’s high.” I know, because it was a feeling I used to cherish as a cross country runner in high school. This feeling lives at the finish line. This feeling of joy was alive moments before the bombs went off in Copley, before the joy turned to fear.
When I think about Patriot’s Day, I think about being a kid, having the day off and heading to Comm. Ave to watch it with my dad. We’d hand out cups of water to the sweaty runners, being in awe of their stamina.
Many of the best stories in Boston’s rich history revolve around the Marathon. There is the time Rosie Ruiz cheated by taking the T in order to win. She was later caught and stripped of her title. There was Johnny Kelley, who ran the marathon an incredible 61 times-the last time when he was 84. There are twin statues of him on Heartbreak Hill, one showing Kelley in 1935 and the other in 1995, holding hands while crossing the finish line.
The finish line, where yesterday so much pain was felt, where our friends and neighbors and tourists suffered. The finish line, where an 8-year-old boy, who’d just congratulated his dad for completing the race before going back onto the sidelines, was killed. Blown to bits. It’s a tough thing to think about, but most of us can’t stop thinking about it. For many of us, it’s all we can think about.
I’m not sure about the exact time I heard about it yesterday. I was canvassing door-to-door for a Senate candidate with my phone off to conserve the battery. I knocked on the doors on my list throughout the afternoon. As I was reaching the end of my list, a woman in her 50’s answered the door and looked as if she’d seen a ghost. She was on the phone and told me there had been an explosion at the marathon and she couldn’t talk. Before I could get any more information, she slammed the door. As I went to the other houses on my list, I gathered details from the people that were home. I heard people on the street say that there had been two blasts.
As I turned my phone on, I answered texts and made calls to friends and family – just like everyone else here. Within minutes of turning on my phone, my boss at the field office called telling everyone to come back. Work was cancelled. Work is cancelled today. The campaign has been suspended. And here I am, glued to coverage.
Since I got home at 7 last night, I’ve been obsessing. Those who know me know I’m a news junkie, and as a result, I have this need to know. We know what happened and when. But, the nagging questions of who and and why are still a mystery. We live in an age where information is expected to flow rapidly, yet they haven’t identified a suspect or a motive, at least not publicly.
Who would do this? We all demand to know. Who would destroy the lives of these peaceful people running and those observing the most celebrated race in the country?
It’s not supposed to happen here, but it did happen here. Of course, it’s not quite as unimaginable since 9/11, but still, we typically don’t think about it being a possibility.
In Iraq yesterday, there were a number of terrorist bombings, killing 42 people and wounding 257. But they’ve been coniditioned for this, we tell ourselves, as if their pain isn’t as meaningful. We’ve never been through this, not here.
I guess the most disturbing part of all of this is that there is nothing we can do. We can make ourselves feel better with an increased police presence, and allow more searches. We can give up all of the rights that we as Americans pride ourselves on having, but the truth is, it won’t matter. And that’s scary. The lack of control, the knowledge that any misguided lunatic, who is able to follow bomb-making instructions on the internet, can destroy our peace of mind with a seemingly innocent bag left somewhere.
Somehow, along with the worst in humanity, we also saw the best. There were police officers and emergency workers running toward the explosions to save victims without a second thought. These are the people who we pause to think about – the incredible bravery and selflessness. We think of the doctors working overtime, including my downstairs neighbor Jeff, who works at MGH. He told me the emergency room looked like a “war zone.”
For now, we will have to collectively mourn. We stare at the the bloody images. W hear about those who had their legs blown off, pieces of metal lodged into their bodies.
There’s a whole process, a formula that people and media outlets follow when these things happen. The wall-to-wall coverage, the replays of any raw footage, the interviews of witnesses, people asking you to “pray for the victims” on Facebook. There might be a ribbon of some kind, marking the date. And while it hurts everytime something horrific happens, this one is especailly tough.
Going to the marathon on Patriots Day with my dad growing up was always a joyful experience that I’ve easily taken for granted because it’s just a way of life. But, something shattered that yesterday.
Now, our hearts break – for the 3 dead, for the many more injured, for their families and friends, for the lives blown apart at the finish line.