Friday, April 11, 2014

April 15, 2013: The day that changed Boston forever

Below are the words that I transcribed one year ago. I never officially posted them and wasn't sure I ever would. This week seems like the right time. A time to reflect on the last 12 months. I find it hard to put into words all of the emotions and thoughts that I have right now. I'm sad and anxious, and it feels funny to say that because we're constantly reminded... "Boston Strong! MIT Strong!" Some of those times, I'm just the opposite. I told myself months ago that I was either going to run the marathon this year or completely leave town that day. It's hard to watch the marathon on a normal year - I always get to that day and wish I was out there. This year, I knew if I wasn't out there I wouldn't be able to watch as a spectator.

I still have nightmares regularly, I still see the image of the bomb going off in front of me and I often envision bombs going off all over my life, at the grocery, on the T... etc... Another lasting affect is my ability to play out a violent scenario, I picture horrible things happening at the weirdest moments and then my imagination goes wild. I'm told by my therapist that these are normal thoughts to be having, that others who witnessed this event are having the same issues resurface, that I am not alone. 

I feel guilty for having emotional scars when I think about the survivors who lost limbs, their hearing, and Martin, Krystle, Lu, and Sean - the ones who innocently lost their lives. I feel guilty for not participating in more fundraisers and memorial events.

I find stength though, too. I find strength when I'm running with the L Street Running club, my neighbors, my new friends - they are uplifting and supportive. I find strength in the MIT team and the MIT community. Each day someone asks "how's training? are you ready? Good Luck!" They really care. I find strength in my partner, my family and friends. Jeremy is always there for me. When there are nights when he knows I can't function, he silently makes dinner, does the dishes, packs my lunch and takes care of me. He takes care of me. 

I'm thankful that back in the Fall, I was part of the small group of MIT staff (and student!) that got together and said, "We need to do something". We did need to do something, we all knew that when April rolled around, MIT had to have a presence at the marathon. We weren't sure what we were going to be able to get for numbers, but we weren't taking "No" for an answer. After finally received numbers, forming the team, and getting in the training - we're here, we've made it to mid-April. We are able to run for those who can't. We are able to run in honor and memory for those lives lost and those lives changed forever, mine included. 

When I think about next week, my first thought is, "the marathon, the running - that's the easy part". The anniversaries on the 15th and the 18th, those will be hard.

And When I read through the words below I wrote so long ago, I think.... the story had only begun....


April 22, 2013: I've been wanting to write down my account of the last 7 days, so here it goes:

Days before the marathon, I remember telling my coworker (who just moved here) that he was "missing the best day of the year in Boston" because he was going to be out of town. It was also Jeremy's first Marathon Monday. I was pretty excited to share this day with him as well. After spending years all over the Boston course, I decided it would be nice just to stay close to the finish line that day. In fact, on Saturday, a friend of mine offered us VIP passes to sit in the finish line grandstand, but we couldn't use the passes until after 2pm.

The morning of the marathon, I woke up early without an alarm and rushed Jeremy to get ready so we could head down to Bolyston St. to have breakfast at Whiskey's and watch all of the elite runners start in Hopkinton and the live coverage from the bar. After getting downtown, we walked right next to Marathon Sports, past the Forum restaurant, they setting up their outside tables. I even thought, "we should go there later, that would be a great place to sit and sip a cocktail and watch the runners." Little did I know just hours later, that restaurant would be the site of the 2nd explosion.

Around 11:30, we left Whiskey's to meet up with many of our friends at mile marker 25.6. For over 2 hours, we cheered for thousands of runners, sometimes standing on the railings to yell as close as we could for them to hear us. We said more than once what a fun day it was, the weather was perfect, we were together and our friends that were running (we were getting text updates) were doing so well.

We all started splitting up around 1:45p-2p. Shelby, another friend, was going to sit in the stands with Jeremy and I so us three headed over to the finish line around 2p. We were in a herd of people stretching from Hereferd all the way down Boyleston St. People were getting really pushy and it was really uncomfortable. Jeremy does not do well in crowds, so he was especially anxious. At one point, Shelby turned to me and asked me if I was doing OK as we were shoulder to shoulder. I told her that I was, just trying to stay calm and breath deep. Around 2:26p, I texted my friend and told her not to come meet us because we were in a "cluster of people near the finish". Once we got closer to the finish, the VIP passes came in handy. We were let inside a gate and it was much better, the crowds were less intense and the runners were right there. Jeremy was still pretty anxious, so he said he was going to wait for us outside to the right of the stands. He didn't want to come up back into a crowd. Shelby and I entered the stands and walked past the first set so we could get closer to the finish. We headed up and stood towards the top bench just behind the American Flag. I noticed that because I called Jeremy and told him that if he did want to come up, to use that as a reference to find us. That was around 2:35p.

I knew around 2:45p that I should be seeing some of my friends cross the finish line, so we looked and waited. We were right there and could see all of the runners right before they would finish. All of the international flags were in front of us, it was a beautiful scene in our beautiful city on a beautiful day. Then life stopped. There was a huge explosion directly across the street. Everyone stopped, no one said a word, we just stared and the smoke filled the stands. We had no idea what it was, my first thought was firecrackers or something innocent. Then, life stopped again and then second explosion occurred to the left of us down the street. At that point, I immediately knew this was no innocent incident and we were under some sort of attack. I also knew that the stands would be the next logical location. I bent down and began looking underneath the stands, I moved around Shelby and didn't see anything. I even thought, "we should jump down there". I looked across the street and saw a man laying on top of another person, it looked like he was shielding them from debris. Then I said to Shelby, "we need to move down towards the street, and fast". My thought was that there wouldn't be another bomb in the street. The volunteers by that point had pushed the barriers into the street and white smoke was everywhere. They were yelling to grab your children and leave the area, they were pointing us towards Exeter St. I took my phone out of my jacket pocket and texted Missy, Mom and Dad, "I'm OK". As we came to the end of the stands, Jeremy was standing looking for me and Shelby. I still can't believe we found each other so easily. We were just saying, "Oh my God" over and over again. We walked towards the South End and decided to just run home immediately. I told Shelby to get ahold of her parents too. We were getting texts while we were walking. People were so confused that didn't see what happened. I just started screaming at people that there were two bombs that went off on Boyleston. Sirens were everywhere for a very long time. Siren after siren. We ducked inside a doorway of a building and just hunched over in order to take a breath, I felt like I was going to get sick. We then ducked in to a restaurant who had live footage, it was just too much to see. We left and started walking home to Southie. We got home around 4p and were able to get in touch with all of our family members via facebook or cell phones.

The next few days were pretty intense, I couldn't sleep, eating was hard, I felt sick all day, everyday. The media was out of control. First there were reports that there was another bomb under the stands that did not detinate and another out at the JFK museum in Southie - both were false.

I was sitting on the couch watching TV on Thursday night, 4/18 (after the FBI released photo's of who they believed were responsible for the bombings) when I got the text about an active shooter on MIT's campus. I almost lost it. I immediately called the Z center. They weren't sure what was going on or what to do, then I called my boss, the Director of Recreation. He didn't answer. I called the Aquatics Director. He answered - we decided I would try to call our Athletic Director and he was going to try and get a hold of someone in the building again. By this time, there was a breaking news report on TV. It was reported that an officer was shot outside of the Stata Center. A building I had walked by hours earlier, on the phone with my mom, just checking in. A building that also houses one of our Rec Centers on campus. By this point, after 10p, that facility had closed and staff had gone home. The Z Center was still open and would be until 11p. Eventually the entire campus was put into lock-down mode. No one leaves or enters a building. Also by this time, the AD and my boss were in the Z Center coordinating the lock-down and gathering anyone in the building into an interior space. There were there for hours. The search was on for the gunman (no one knew that there was any connection to the bombers until the early hours of the morning) was on going and ended up taking them to Watertown, a nearby suburb of Boston. There the shootout occurred between the 2 gunmen and police, I watched it live on TV. It was crazy, the entire night was just unimaginable.

I finally went to bed around 1am, at that point the media was reporting that Sean was killed in the line of duty at MIT, I was an emotional mess and physically exhausted. I texted my boss that I wasn't in any shape to be at work the next day. Around 5am, my phone rang, it was my dad. He was telling me to turn on the news... that the gunmen the night before were the marathon bombers and that one was still on the loose in Boston. The entire city was then put on lock-down. I couldn't believe it. I was parked on my couch all day watching TV. I couldn't pull myself away from it. Finally, after hours and hours of searching, the city lifted the lock-down and that's when it happened. Minutes later a man in Watertown went outside, a natural thing to do when you're finally allowed to, and he noticed the tarp on his boat as ripped, he quietly put a ladder next to it to check it out and he saw blood and what looked to be a body. He immediately called the police and the arrest was made.

This is my personal account of the Boston Marathon and MIT tragedies of April 15 - 19, 2013.

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