A Reflection on the Boston Marathon Bombings

Brendan Kelleher —  April 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

In order to force ourselves into good habits for pushing out new content, we’ve committed to publishing a blog post every Wednesday.  Last night I began writing this week’s post about Monday’s tragic events at the Boston Marathon.  I got pretty much nowhere before calling it quits.  All I had done was come up with disclaimers to preface the post with:

“Fortunately, none of us at the company were directly affected.”

“The internet is inundated with content on this subject, and there are thousands of people more profoundly impacted by the events who can articulate their sentiments much more eloquently than I can.”

“None of my thoughts are necessarily original, and have all been intimated in some media outlet or another.”

“This blog isn’t designed to address heavy matters such as this one.”

Ultimately, I went to bed deciding that I would just write about something normal.

But coming into the office this morning, writing about something “normal” didn’t feel right either.  We are a Boston company, these events have affected us, and since I am writing today, then today I will write about Monday’s events.

The Boston Marathon is almost a sacred event to Bostonians.  I’ve heard many people refer to it in recent days as not so much an athletic event as it is a festival celebrating the city’s proud history and heritage.  In a city that identifies itself with its sports teams, the Red Sox play a special 11 AM game every year to coincide with the race.  The route goes by many of the city’s great colleges which adds a particularly festive vibe (that might be putting it lightly).  It takes place on Patriots’ Day, commemorating the Battles of Lexington and Concord which kickstarted the founding of this nation.  It is the world’s oldest annual marathon.  Boston is often overshadowed as the little, kid brother of New York City, and while we might think the Boston Marathon is a bigger deal than it actually is, this is our event, our time to show off how great our city truly is.

Growing up outside of Boston and then attending a college at the top of Heartbreak Hill, I always dreamed of one day running the marathon.  Attending the race, you cannot help but be inspired by runners fighting through injuries and fatigue, or running in memory of a lost loved one, or for one of the many charities that raises money through the event, or by a father who pushes his son with cerebral palsey every year.  You wonder what that sense of accomplishment must feel like.

In 2011 I finally realized my lifelong dream.  I ran by friends and family, planted kisses on the cheeks of the Wellesley College girls at mile 12, climbed the Newton Hills passing the Hoyt’s along the way at mile 19, climbed Heartbreak Hill at mile 21, got an enormous adrenaline rush running by my alma mater shortly thereafter, ran by the Red Sox fans in Kenmore Square at mile 25, and then took the famous right on Hereford.

Chills came over me as I took the final turn onto Boylston.  The spectacle, the crowd noise, the finish line finally in sight.  I scanned the crowd knowing my dad was somewhere among those thousands.  In a scene that I can still playback like a movie, I heard him yell out to me and saw him smiling ear to ear.  The fatigue in your legs disappears, and you move forward uncontrollably.  The feeling of crossing the finish line is unlike anything I have ever experienced.  It’s not just the culmination of 26.2 miles, but the culmination of months of arduous training.

This is all to say that thousands of people were robbed of this moment on Monday.  Much worse, lives and limbs were taken from innocent spectators and participants.  What is supposed to be a joyous stretch of pavement became the scene of a horrific and disgusting act.

After running the last two marathons, I decided to take in this year’s as a spectator for the first time as an alumnus.  We stationed ourselves at a friend’s apartment around mile 23 of the route.  Roughly ten minutes after my friend and marathon teammate ran by us, I received a disturbing text from a friend located on Boylston.  I did some quick math and figured that my friends were likely short of the finish line.  Fortunately, they were about a third of a mile from the explosions and were unharmed.  We frantically ran down the checklist of friends and family in the area, and were able to confirm everyone’s safety relatively quickly.

It’s very easy to play the what if game with something like this.  What if my friends had been a little faster (actually more on target with what they hoped for, if not for some cramps)?  What if we had already made it to the finish area?  What if my sister, who was on the subway heading in town, had left a little earlier?  What if I had run this year?  What if my dad was in the same spot he was 2 years ago?  Well, for the 3 dead and 150 injured and their families, there is no what if game.  Our hearts and prayers go out to all of them.

But much like every other Marathon Monday, this day showed off how great our city truly is.

First responders sprinting towards the explosions to help the wounded.  The best hospitals in the world mobilizing and treating victims.  Marathoners crossing the finish line only to continue their run to the hospital to donate blood.  Residents offering up places to stay for those displaced by the crime scene.

Boston is stronger today than it ever has been.  Marathon Monday will forever be different, but it will go on, and it will still showcase Boston’s finest.  I look forward to running next year.  My friends who had their finishing moment stolen are looking forward to it as well.



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