On Tuesday, I woke to text messages and emails from friends and family about the terrible bombings at the finish of the Boston Marathon. Twelve hours ahead in India, it was April 16, 2013, exactly six years from the Virginia Tech Massacre. As a Hokie, Tuesday was going to be a hard day. As a Boston Marathon alumna, Tuesday turned out to be a lot worse than I could have imagined.
As the horror of the news sunk in, the images and memories of my Boston Marathon experience started floating into my head. And, like anyone else who has intimately experienced the marathon – or the city itself – you immediately place yourself in that scene. Where would I have been when the bombs went off? Where was my mother standing? What about my friends? And of course, you think of your own experience.
My mind flashed to 2009, the year I ran the Boston Marathon. I will never forget turning the corner onto Boylston, when, only minutes earlier, I wondered how I was going to take my next step. With that turn, I found what little energy I had left and sprinted (or what felt like sprinting) to the finish line. During that last stretch, with the roar of the crowd, so loud, yet at the same time, almost quiet, I thought about the cause I was running for, the friend I was running with and the fact that I just finished a marathon – no small feat. As I crossed the finish line, I heard my mom call out my name and we hugged with tears mixed with pride, accomplishment and exhaustion streaming down our faces. I can say with certainty not one of those tears was out of fear.
Sports, in general, have been used across the world to promote peace and understanding among countries and cultures and the Boston Marathon is no exception to that rule. While many claim that running is an individual sport, it is clear to me they have never competed in a race. The sense of community is almost overwhelming. When you compete in a race like Boston, everyone has a story to tell: one person running for charity or in memory of a loved one, another who is completing their 49th marathon, with only one more to go in Alaska. For the entire 26 miles, there are volunteers in bright jackets passing out drinks and words of encouragement and spectators three, six, ten deep yelling and holding signs for strangers.
On Monday, April 15. at 2:50 PM, someone, with the intent of mass casualty, shattered that sense of community. But only for a second. Because just as fast as those bombs exploded, the community was back together and stronger then ever. Heroism, humanity and resilience were on display for the world to see on Monday. And while the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, just like Virginia Tech, will never make sense, they can not and will not brake our spirit.
We will prevail. We are Boston.