At 2:50 pm on 15 May 2013 I was on Commonwealth Ave in Boston waiting for my daughter, Nicola (a contributor to this blog), to emerge from the Massachusetts Ave underpass in the pack running the Boston Marathon. The two explosions sent an ominous presence across the crowd. Within minutes, police had closed the race course with a barricade at the end of the underpass. Then they began moving the crowd back towards Mass Ave. The word of explosions and injuries at the finish line focused everyone’s attention.
Marathon races have become major community events; the Boston Marathon is the paragon of the event. For every step of the 26.2 mile course, crowds cheer along the over 20,000 runners. They are amazed by the smooth speed of the elite runners in the first packs. They have a heartfelt connection with the friends and family and enthusiasts who make up the bulk of the runners.
Nicola has been training for this, her third marathon, through the toughest winter Boston had endured for years. She was in excellent condition for the run. When we saw her at the 10 mile point in Nadick earlier in the day, she looked great, smiling in the warm sun.
The attack on the Marathon is an attack on community. It had horrendous consequences on people who were maimed or killed in the blast and their loved ones.
However, community remained strong. On the fringes of the event, where we were, the priority for each group was to find one another. During 20 minutes when no one knew whether this was a delay or the end of the race, I walked along the massed runners holding our “Go Niki” sign up high. People helped others to find friends and family. They sought out medical help when runners collapsed as they chilled in the cool Boston air when brought to an abrupt halt at mile 25.5 with nowhere to go. People were focused on helping one another.
Eventually, we connected through text messages and Niki climbed over the barricade and found me under my upraised sign. With my car in the locked down Boston Commons garage, we walked 2 ½ miles to the hotel where we had left her car. So, a marathon and then some.
Communities are resilient. Attacks hurt badly but do not destroy that feeling. Instead they are the tough events that bring people closer. But individuals do suffer major injury and death despite all our efforts. Those losses are devastating and have an impact on everyone. When I was walking through Cambridge this morning, people would start conversations about the event and the pain it caused.
Coming together is the way towards healing.