By: Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas
As an avid marathoner and a former Bostonian, I found myself like so many around the world crushed by the news of the devastating events of the Boston Marathon bombing this week. I spent countless hours going through news websites and listening to NPR trying to get my mind to comprehend what happened.
Although I am thousands of miles away, I can see it. I will never be able to achieve a qualifying time for this premiere race, but I can imagine what it might have felt like to be a 4:09 finisher. To see the finish line and anticipate the cheers and hugs from family and friends – all you can think about is crossing that threshold. I have an eight-year-old boy, the same age as Martin Richard, one of three people killed in the blasts. I can imagine looking for him and my other sons and husband in the crowd. I can feel the confusion of the thousands of runners who were told to stop in the middle of a race that many of them had probably prepared for over months or years. I can remember the celebration of a city and state so proud of this iconic event they actually take a holiday so everyone can take part.
As the events unfolded, I read an outpouring of tweets from the international marathon community, stunned and disturbed by the news, as the images of the worlds’ flags blowing from the blast were seared into our consciousness.
The next morning I poured through the Boston Globe, I was reminded about the special bond between runner and spectator. Very few other sports let spectators touch or feed the athletes during the competition. Spectators, with their cow bells and goofy signs, often provide the energy that lifts the runner through the difficult parts of the race. And yet, at this tragedy, it was the spectators that suffered the most damage.
So tragic, so senseless all of this. And yet, “in the night of death, hope sees a star and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing” (Robert Ingersall). What we all saw and read that day and since gives me great hope about our humanity:
· the first responders and medical teams who signed up for the event thinking they would be handling traffic, dehydration and blisters who then found themselves in the middle of a war zone and just did what needed to be done
· the residents who took so many stranded runners into their homes and gave them comfort and a way to connect with their families
· the runners themselves, some of whom gave blood after running an exhausting race
· the Bostonians who refused to let this stop their city. As Scot Lehigh of the Boston Globe stated in his editorial, “…We won’t be paralyzed by fear. We’ll take reasonable precautions, yes. But we won’t take cover. And we won’t cower. This, after all, is Boston.”
The Boston Marathon will continue to be the iconic event for runners and spectators everywhere. Boston will continue to pull together, recover and thrive. It may have been a tough blow, but as Lehigh said, “it’s a tougher town” with a tougher sport that won’t be brought down.