I got a call from one of my friends back in Lexington who writes for our local paper. He was hoping I could answer some questions about the Boston Marathon, but I was in the “quiet car” on Amtrak and had to ignore his call. I emailed him my account of Jay’s and my experience on Monday–writing about it helped. So now I’m sharing the same with you, with some added reflections.
Jay finished the marathon 2 hours before the blasts. We had already gone back to our apartment to shower and were heading out the door for lunch when one of Jay’s friends called and said, “What’s going on?! There were two explosions at the finish!” Jay immediately called the station, but nothing had hit the wires yet. He started making his way to the scene to find out what was going on. People were flooding toward the Commons and he just started asking questions. “It sounded like a bomb.” “At first I thought maybe it was a cannon or fireworks.” “Lots of blood.” “People missing limbs.” “I can’t find my family.” etc. One of Jay’s journalist friends in Boston called him and said not to get any closer–and to tell the rest of us all to stay indoors. Jay was able to track down his chief meteorologist who had been cheering at mile 25 for his brother. Lee’s brother finished just before the explosions, and finally they were able to find each other–all safe. Jay ended up doing live hits from his iPhone, which is pretty amazing.
Meanwhile I had gone to an apartment of a friend who I knew was finishing around the time of the blast. She wasn’t back yet, but we got word she was ok. Then I went back to our apartment where family friends of ours were also staying. Our phones weren’t working well, so we were texting friends to make sure they were safe until we accounted for everyone. We texted family to let them know we were ok. Social media helped a lot. One of our friend’s husbands was in class at Harvard Law School, so we were very concerned about the news of explosions at JFK Library (later said not to be explosions). The friends at my apartment went back to their place in Cambridge, but I stayed in the apartment waiting for Jay. We were told to stay off the streets as news reported undetonated bombs had been located. This was later found to be untrue. Eventually I got antsy and decided it was safe for a walk. I walked through Boston Commons–it was quiet and peaceful, but police trucks lined Charles. I saw two women on a park bench still in their running clothes. They were stopped before they could finish the race, and now they couldn’t get into their hotel. A local woman asked if there was anything she could do to help them. I started walking to where Jay was working in South End. Ambulances lined Columbus–just waiting. Police and dogs were everywhere. It was eerie to look down Boylston–empty. I found Jay and we tried to grab a bite to eat, but half the places were closed and the other half were starting to run out of food. It was 9:45pm. Jay’s station had sent a satellite truck up by then, so he stayed to field produce the 11, and got home around 11:45. I don’t know how he ran a 2:37:55 marathon and then worked 9 hours. I think he’s just working off adrenaline right now. He’ll be there field producing for the next day or two, depending on how things unfold. I’m on my way home. It’s hard to leave him behind, but today is less scary–more confusing and sad.
As runners, we’re still in shock. The explosions occurred at the same time the average male marathoner finishes. I don’t know if the bomber knew that, but 4:10 is that average finish time. Running is such a positive sport of camaraderie and support. We cheer each other on–even the competition. Runners often run for a cause–for charity or to overcome an obstacle or to honor a loved one. Now we have one more cause to run for.
This was Jay’s 3rd Boston, 6th marathon. All marathons are special, but Boston certainly has a unique feel to it. Even I have inklings of qualifying someday just to experience the awe and the energy of the event. It’s just so unbelievable. We can’t help but be angry, confused and heartbroken.
Three things keep coming to mind:
1. Jay had to surpass many obstacles just to get to the start line this year. He’s been battling hamstring tendonitis for 6 weeks, which he felt through the entire race. He’s been unable to sleep for several weeks. But I kept saying to him, “Monkey, you’re going to be fine. There’s no way this race could be worse than last year.” And really, I didn’t see how anything could be harder than his beast of a run at last year’s Boston Marathon in 90-degree heat. I didn’t fathom the unfathomable. I can’t believe I said that.
2. I was cheering on Boylston, not far from the second explosion. I was there with my friends, including a friend’s young son in a stroller. I just can’t believe we were standing there next to something so lethal, feeling nothing but celebration and elation. People keep saying, “I’m so glad Jay is such a fast runner. It’s so good to see you in one piece.” I hear what they’re saying and I hear the love in it, but I don’t know how to feel about it.
3. When I saw Jay at mile 26, he looked awful. He did give me a thumbs up to let me know he saw me (a first at Boston–he usually can’t hear/spot me in the crowd despite my loud self)… but he looked like he always does after 26 miles of speed and endurance–like he’s about to fall apart. So after I screamed his name and waved my cowbell, I bolted to the bag check where I knew I’d find him. It’s about a 7 minute run as you snake through crowds and loop around the barricades, and I can always feel my phone vibrating with text messages: “Is he ok? Is he pleased?” But I ignored the texts until I ran to where I knew he’d be. I just wanted to know he was ok. I couldn’t help but feel a bit of panic in that 7-minute run to find my husband. So I cannot imagine the panic and anguish people were feeling just two hours later, running every which direction, trying to locate loved ones. The feeling is too big for me to bear.
So that’s our story according to me. I am sure that Jay will have his own version which he will write eloquently about once he has time to decompress (if his work lets him). It’s been a very hard 36 hours. And it’s even harder to put into words.
I am glad you are both ok, sad you had to be so close to such tragedy. Sad that this tragedy even happened. It made me scared knowing so many runner friends were so close to this. Love you, wish I could give you a big hug.
There are many nights I can’t sleep, but I am not sure I would write anything worth reading. I am glad you have that talent. Thank you for sharing a very frightening and deeply felt event so those of us far away can get a small bit of understanding. With your words this becomes a 3D event – not just 2. I am still very thankful you and Jay are physically unharmed. I pray the peace you knew before will be restored in a new way. Some happenings change your world permanently.