Eclipsed by the scope of the devastation at the Boston Marathon finish line were the frayed loose ends of approximately 5000 runners who did not finish the race. Police set up barricades across the route on Commonwealth Avenue as it emerged from the Massachusetts Avenue underpass. In light of such an unanticipated event, no one had a policy or an action plan for these thousands of participants. Responding to the immediate impact of the explosions, tending to the injured, and preventing further harm dominated the moment.
The runners stood in the chilly air thinking at first that they were experiencing a temporary interruption. As the minutes ticked by, information circulated regarding the scope and seriousness of the situation. There were no communications from either race officials or law enforcement to the runners. Many were near exhaustion; most were far from home; all were feeling the chill of an abrupt halt to strenuous activity. After about 20 minutes or so we contacted my daughter, Nicola, through texts. After she climbed over barricades to join us, we made our own decision that the race was cancelled. We hiked the 2 ½ miles to the car.
Within the major scope of the community and law enforcement reaction to the bombing, individuals feel the lingering emotional impact that comes from proximity to a major catastrophe. It is difficult to settle into everyday life. Images from the moment persist. The mind rehearses what-if scenarios. The loose ends of the situation persevere.
A welcome bit of closure occurred on Wednesday. Nicola was notified that the Boston Athletic Association was awarding completion medals to runners who were prevented from finishing the race. In a hotel meeting room in downtown Boston, she was enthusiastically greeted by race personnel. They put the medal on her with brief but meaningful ceremony. They insisted on taking a photo for her to remember the event.
This bit of closure helped to defuse the emotional impact of the event. The community needs a larger scope of closure from apprehending the evil people behind the bombing. The injured need a larger scope of closure from healing. For too many, closure will come from learning to adjust to permanent injury.
Great resiliency takes time, determination, and community.
But one bit of closure is a step in a community recovering from disaster.