Every night before I go to bed, I write down the things I’m grateful for, most nights the lists are identical, I’m grateful for my family, friends, house, job, health. Some nights the list contains things like a good hair day, an unexpected dinner request or a great run.
The last few nights my list has looked a little different.
-I’m extremely grateful my friends and I were unharmed in the events that occurred on Monday.
-I’m extremely grateful that I have friends who jumped into action and helped those who weren’t as fortunate.
-I’m extremely grateful for the stranger who didn’t think twice about turning around to pick me up when I fell as the second blast went off.
-I’m extremely grateful for the first responders, the quickness and precision these men and women acted with is remarkable.
It was almost as though it was a dress rehearsal and everyone knew exactly where they needed to be and what actions to take.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a dress rehearsal, despite fact that it still seems surreal.
Monday April 15, 2013 began exactly the same way the last few Marathon Mondays began; I got up, went for a run and showered. My sister came over and along with Erin we stopped at Dunkin before meeting Liz downtown and heading to Max Brenner’s to meet up with a bunch of friends.
We got there around 11 so we could get a good spot on the patio to watch the elites finish and cheer on the runners. A round of drinks was ordered as we cheered on the wheelchair division. As the first finishers approached we marveled at how fast they ran and how effortless they made running 26.2 miles look.
I joined Danielle along the side line and as we cheered on the runners we discussed running. How neither of us could imagine being able to run that fast. How a 4 hour marathon would be a huge accomplishment.
The mood was light and many jokes were made. It was a beautiful day in Boston, the temperature was a perfect compromise for runners and spectators. Spring was finally in full effect after a long winter.
Lisa and Maureen had a fantastic front row spot near the corner of Hereford and Boylston. I joined them continuing the running discussions, talking about running the marathon next year and getting updates on how Lisa’s boyfriend Jack was faring in this years race for a bit before heading back to Max Brenner’s. My sister and her boyfriend left to meet up with a couple of his friends, another drink was consumed and Lauren and Kayla joined us from the Atlantic Fish Company to cheer on the runners. All in all it was shaping up to be the perfect day, great company in an inspiring, electric atmosphere.
About an hour later, I decided to head back to hang out with Lisa and Maureen. I told my friends I’d be back in a bit, grabbed my bag and headed into the crowded sidewalks of Boylston Street.
I heard what sounded like a cannon – just like the one that goes off every night in the Navy Yard to signal the sun set – figuring it was a Patriots Day tribute I turned around to see what was going on. I didn’t see anything at first but then a grey cloud of smoke began to emerge.
I started to reason what it could be, a transformer, a cell phone exploded, a manhole cover blew. Fear started to creep over me, the crowd of people 5 deep along the quarter-mile stretch of Boylston was in complete deafen silence.
The silence was then muted by screaming. I asked “what was that” and remember knowing exactly what it was before someone said “run, it’s a bomb”.
I turned around and started to run with the crowd. I felt extremely alert, I think instinct took over and I went into survival mode. I remember questioning whether I was overreacting, but somehow knew the answer was no. I remember questioning (and hoping) whether I was going in the right direction.
And most of all I remember waiting for another explosion.
The second explosion went off, much louder than the first, and I fell. My first initial thought was that I was going to get trampled; I could feel people rushing around me. I knew I needed to get up as quickly as possible and that I needed to get my legs underneath me. The fall seemed to take forever; I remember seeing the ground coming closer and closer.
The person in front of me scooped me up before I barely had a chance to hit the pavement. He made sure I had both feet on the ground and told me I was ok and to keep running. I think he was wearing a brown coat, I don’t remember looking at him nor do I remember if I said Thank You.
It’s at this point that things start getting fuzzy and the panic and fear started creeping in. I remember running and turning onto Fairfield Street and running down to Newbury before I stopped and looked back. I kept waiting to hear another explosion – how many would there be – and questioning whether or not this was really happening. There were people everywhere, panicked, running, crying and screaming. Everything seemed to be a blur.
I immediately started texting my friends to ensure everyone was safe. I felt sick to my stomach. It felt like forever before I got responses, but in reality it was mere seconds and minutes. I remember more and more people starting to gather on Comm Ave and the continuous sound of sirens as more and more first responders arrived the scene.
I remember debating whether or not to tell Julie (via text) about the explosions, still holding up hope that I had overreacted to the whole thing. She was on the T headed to meet us questioning whether she’d be able to get into the bar.
All of my friends were safe and quickly accounted for. My sister and Matt were at lunch on Newbury. Erin and Kayla (both nurses) had run out to help people after the explosions went off. Liz, Lauren, Danielle and Sarah were all safe at Max Brenner’s, Lisa and Maureen were safe on Hereford Street.
Up until Tuesday morning I had assumed that when I had left Max Brenner’s to go find Lisa and Maureen that I had been walking away from the explosions. I thought the first explosion had gone off a couple of businesses down in the direction of the finish line and that the second explosion happened at the finish line.
I didn’t realize just how close my friends and I had been to the destruction.
The second explosion went off two businesses down from where we were. I had just passed that spot mere seconds before the first explosion went off. I think I was standing in front of the Atlantic Fish Company* when I turned around after hearing the first explosion, I remember there being the black iron fence of the patio to my left and I remember the sidewalk opening up after I started running.
I didn’t turn around when the second explosion went off; I didn’t look behind me when the stranger helped me up. The second explosion sounded louder but I had assumed that was because I was waiting to hear it. I never considered the sound being louder because it was bigger or closer.
I was also surprised to learn there was only 12 seconds between blasts, it still doesn’t seem reasonable that entire experience happened in less than 30 seconds.
The minutes after that are a bit of a blur, I remember getting text messages from numbers I didn’t recognize asking if I was ok. To be completely honest, I remember being aggravated wishing the texts were from friends who had been in the area instead. I remember flipping out on a young boy who was popping balloons while I was trying to locate my friends.
I remember not knowing what to do next.
In the days that have followed I’ve found it hard to associate my experience with the event to what I’ve seen on the news. I didn’t see any of the carnage; the views they show of the explosions are not the views I remember; the blasts sounded differently in real life than they do on the news.
The last few days have been spent questioning everything I did and the timing of things. What would have happened if I left 10 seconds later, or even just 5? What would have happened if I ran in the opposite direction back towards my friends? What if I had just stood there?
I’ve struggled with how to deal with this, physically I’m fine but emotionally I’m not.
I alter between angry, irritable and exhausted. I feel distracted and disengaged. I feel guilty that I ran away instead of running to help people out and most of the time I feel guilty for feeling any of this as I was unharmed.
I’ve also struggled with how to describe what happened. I cringe every time I hear the word “lucky” or “wrong place, wrong time” used to describe people, offered as a condolence or as an explanation. Those words sound far too trivial.
I haven’t cried about the event yet and I feel numb when hearing or talking about what happened. When I see a news segment or read an article detailing the victims or the heroes, stories that would normally bring me to tears, I think to myself “that’s horrible” or “courageous, inspiring” but there’s no outflow of emotion.
While I’ve taken precautions such as being more aware of my surroundings, avoiding being in crowds or on public transportation, I wouldn’t say I’ve felt unsafe. I believe the increased police presence in the city has helped a great deal. Part of me actually feels safer living in Boston after seeing what the first responders and political figures will do to protect this city.
I feel extremely guilty that I will get to go back to being my old self while others lives were changed forever. I still have the freedom to move about as I please and more importantly I still get to hug my family and friends and tell them that I love them, while others no longer have that luxury.
I’ve talked about what happened and how I’m feeling a lot with friends and family this past week. And while I’ve been told what I’m feeling is normal, I’m speaking to a counselor this week.
My thoughts and prayers are with everyone that was affected by this tragedy. Seeing the outpouring of support for the city of Boston from around the globe proves that there is more love and compassion in this world than hate.
I believe the youngest victim, 8-year-old Martin Richard, said it best “No More Hurting People…Peace”.
If you or a loved one are looking to speak to someone the below are just a few of many options:
-The City of Boston Mayor’s Healthline has counselors available from 9am-5pm 4.22.13-4.26.13.
-The Federal Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990; provides immediate counseling to anyone who needs help in dealing with the aftermath of a tragedy.
-The American Red Cross provides Disaster Mental Health Services during local, regional and national disaster incidents. Contact your local Red Cross office. www.redcross.org
-Your place of employment might also offer an Employee Assistance Program that will have resources available.
-Contact your healthcare provider for options of professionals available in your area
If you’re interested in assisting the victims of this horrific event please visit: www.onefundboston.org
*For those of you not familiar with the area, when looking onto Boylston Street from left to right the bars/restaurants are Max Brenner’s, Starbucks, Forum, Atlantic Fish Company. The second explosion went off in front of Forum.
Edited**Editor’s Note: I’ve been working on this post for the past week, attempting to put this experience into words has proven extremely difficult. I didn’t want to dramatize my experience but at the same time I don’t want to discount what I experienced. I love writing in that it helps me sort my thoughts, express my feelings and learn from my experiences. And while it did help to write this post, I learned that I don’t have the words to describe what happened, I’m not sure anyone does.
I disabled comments for this post as I’m not looking for sympathy the sole The purpose of this post is to hopefully assist others who are struggling with the emotional aftermath of this event. Learning that others feel the same way I do has helped me. Please feel free to email me directly if you’d like to talk or share your story firstname.lastname@example.org.