I look forward to the Boston Marathon every year. I’m a runner myself. I basically do three 10Ks a week just to maintain good health and well-being. I have never run a marathon before, but I admire others who do put the work into pushing through the whole 26.2 miles. I had three friends who ran the race this year. For two of them it was their first marathon. The third friend was running his fifth marathon.
I wished the three well the morning of the race on Twitter. It was a beautiful, crisp spring day on Heartbreak Hill. I watched the race on TV. Based on marathon racing trends from the last few years, it was a pretty safe bet that both the female and male running winners were going to be from East Africa. So the excitement for me is whether a non-African runner can break the trend. At the start of the women’s race all eyes were on hometown girl Shalane Flanagan and her running partner Kara Goucher. Near the middle of the race, all attention moved to Portuguese runner Ana Dulce Felix who took the lead for a while. But at the end – as expected – Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo grabbed the win.
After Jeptoo’s win, I attended a couple of business meetings with clients and then went out to do some errands. I got home around 2:30 and turned on the radio. Around 3 o’clock I heard a breaking news report that there was an explosion at the marathon. I was at first puzzled, and then I heard the reporter say that it might have been a gas pipe or manhole explosion. I didn’t much think about it after that since explosions of that nature were pretty common in Boston. So I turned off the radio.
An hour later I turned on my television and began channel surfing. I quickly realized that the explosions were being covered on all channels. They all kept replaying the same footage of two explosions going off and everyone running in hysteria. I immediately thought to myself that these could not be accidental explosions. I had a quick flashback to Sept. 11, 2001, when I saw the first plane fly into Tower One, and I thought that it was an accident until the second plane crashed into Tower Two.
No, those planes didn’t fly into the buildings by accident. And, no, those explosions at the race were no accident either.
I immediately called my three running buddies to see if they were okay. Luckily, they had all crossed the finish line and went home a half hour before the bombings. I then called my family just to see if they were alright. They didn’t attend the marathon, but events like these make you want to be closer to your loved ones.
My eyes were glued to the television for the rest of the night. It was so bizarre to see the explosions over and over again all over the international media. I walk up and down Boylston Street on a regular basis. I go to the Trader Joe’s almost every other day and pop into the Apple store to play around with their “iThings” or to take a Final Cut Pro class. Every once in a while, I visited the Marathon Sports store to see if they had any good sales on running gear.
“That could have been me standing there,” I said to myself as I repeatedly saw the first explosion go off in front of that store.
I have never had any close connection to a tragedy like this before. Two of the 9/11 planes came out of Logan Airport, but I didn’t personally know anyone who died or was injured by those events. And then there is this feeling that if you don’t have a real connection to a tragedy of this nature, you kind of feel like something like this could never happen to you. But this time it did, indirectly. The bombings really got to me in a way that I have never experienced before.
This was literally terror in my backyard.
The rest of that week became even more bizarre. First, the search for the bombers seemed to go cold, as no one could figure out who could have done this egregious act. Maybe the criminals had already left town? The Boston Marathon is an international sporting event that attracts runners from around the world. At first I thought the criminals could have been from out of town. The suspect could have plotted the whole event by posing as a runner and literally slipped away with everyone else escaping the explosions.
Here began the online hysteria. Reddit and Twitter junkies suddenly became detectives, searching through shared photos and videos from the race. Is it that guy with the black backpack? Who is that guy wearing a blue robe? Whatever became of Abdul Rahman Ali Al-Harbi? Whatever became of Sunil Tripathi? Are those two men in black working for Craft International? What the heck is a false flag?
And then there was the media hysteria. All the misinformation about who the suspects were. Al-Qaeda? White Nationalists? Tea Partiers? Anti-tax activists? Pro-gun nuts? A white guy? A dark-skinned male? The suspects were found and arrested before they were not found and not arrested, according to CNN. The two Arab guys looking in a different direction from the rest of the crowd in pictures kind of sort of look like the suspects, according to the New York Post.
Finally the moment of truth came when the FBI released the images of the two suspects who were not only white, but were literally Caucasian.
And then there was the car chase/shoot out/lock down. That morning I happened to be out running in my neighborhood, when I heard the news on my iPod that one suspect was dead, and the other one was on the loose in the Boston area. There had been a shoot out in Watertown a few hours earlier. The suspects were throwing grenades and possibly had IEDs strapped to their chests. Suicide bombers? This can’t possibly be happening in Boston. Maybe I had mistaken the news for some event happening in Baghdad or Beirut.
No, it was happening here alright, and I needed to get home fast. As I headed back to my house, I stopped to tell people standing at bus stops to go home because the T was shut down and the suspect could be anywhere. I got home and locked myself in… well, not really. But the whole Greater Boston area was asked to stay indoors, as to not accidentally become a target in another possible shoot out.
For the rest of the day I was on my computer reading up on the suspects. I read about Chechenya’s troubled past, the suspects’ possible Islamic beliefs, their mother’s criminal record, their Toronto-based aunt and Russia-based father saying this was an FBI set up, and their Maryland –based uncle calling them “losers.” I was again glued to my TV, watching all the events unfolding in Watertown, while peeking out of my window at a street void of any traffic or pedestrians. It was sunny and 75 degrees outside – the warmest day of the year so far – and all of Boston was stuck inside.
Of course, when the lock down is finally lifted, the real drama hit its peak when the surviving suspect is found, in all places, a boat in someone’s backyard. I heard shots again on the television. It looked like this suspect was going out blazing. But instead, he surrenders to everyone’s relief. I can finally breathe normally again for the first time since the bombings.
However, I also know that there will be times as the trial proceedings are prepared and more information is revealed about the suspects and victims, my breathing and my heart will run fast at times. But I am going to run my 10Ks faster; not only because it relieves stress and inspires better self-awareness, but also because life goes on. We all have to move on, be stronger and overcome this adversity. I am willing to bet that twice the number of people will want to register to run the 2014 Boston Marathon. Who knows, I might just run that race next year too. There might be terror in my backyard, but not in my heart.