I've been on the news a lot lately. As a PR professional whose number one job is to help others get media attention, it’s an odd feeling to see yourself on a TV screen. And yet there I am… every time they play the surveillance video from the Boston Marathon bombings. I see the two brothers inches from me as I stand on the sidelines, watching the race and waiting for my friends to run by. One year later and I still get chills every time I see that video. Remembering how close I was, how close to home – my home, my city – it is an indescribable feeling. But Jeff Bauman did a pretty amazing job: the iconic Boston bombing photograph isn't about my legs – it's about a rescue.
Inspired by Jeff and so many others that overcame so much, I wanted to share what I remember from that day and how each bad memory fills me with more hope and love, than fear and sadness.
I remember feeling the earth shake a little, and through the many confused and panicked faces hearing the word “bomb” spread across the crowd. I remember being ushered off the street by police and being told to hold my breath because they didn’t know if the smoke was toxic. But I also remember the group of people around me yelling, yelling that people must be hurt and we should help, not run. Their words cleared the smoke from my confused mind, and I followed them as they pushed their way back to Boylston Street. We weren’t allowed back on the street. But that was bravery, not fear.
I remember everyone around me being so scared, but not for themselves – for their friends and family running the race, and for their loved ones at home who were surely wondering if we were safe. That was selflessness, not terror.
I graduated from Boston College, a school where celebrating the Marathon is basically a religion in itself. I remember feeling so sad for the students who lost the joy of that day. Then I remember the students who rallied together to finish “The Last 5.” That’s pride, not dread.
I remember when Yankee stadium played Sweet Caroline in support of Boston. I remember when my parents, die-hard Yankee fans who were honestly angry when I bought my first Red Sox hat, told me they were rooting for the Sox to win the World Series. That’s solidarity, not being torn apart.
I remember celebrating the majority of 2012’s marathon at Forum. My friends and I thought we would again. But I remember suddenly feeling like we should leave, telling my friends “let’s try some place else this year.” Twenty minutes later, the second bomb went off at that exact spot. My friends and I were one block down. I am not an overly spiritual person but I know someone I love and lost was watching over me that day. That’s faith, not despair.
I remember the days following the bombings and coming into work and feeling so out-of-place, like it felt wrong to get on with our lives and our jobs. I remember Beth encouraging us to pause our work and sit together for a while and share our feelings. I remember I was at the office when I first saw the surveillance video. I burst into tears. And was instantly surrounded by loving arms and hugs of support. That’s compassion, not ignorance.
I remember the horrors of that day but I also remember my dear friends (like Dianne Bacsik) who refuse to be stopped and will run again this year. I think about my amazing colleague Tina Cassidy who is running this year for the first time in honor of the life of Martin Richard. That’s love, not hate.
I remember that day and think about the aftermath of love that poured out of unspeakable tragedy. For those reasons and many others, I will stand by the finish line again this year. I will not be afraid. I will stand proud and cheer on my amazing friends and watch my city – our city – run together.