Boston Marathon brings back memories of last year's tragedy
April 15 marked the first -year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings and with this year's event set for Monday, April 21, it brought back many fresh emotions from the most traumatic experience I've ever had.
I think back to 2013 and remember how perfect the weather was and seemingly a perfect day of running and celebration. My wife Jennifer, my daughter Finley and myself were there to support and cheer for Jennifer's dad, Gary Melville, and his running partner, Lisa Deaton, both of Charleston, S.C. This would be Gary's last marathon in his long storied running career and he wanted it to be the Boston Marathon.
I remember seeing the lead runners near Fenway Park before we took the subway back to Boylston St. It was Boylston St., the famous finishing street of the Boston Marathon, that we wanted to see Gary and Lisa finish their perfect day.
Once we got back to Boylston St. we still had a couple more hours before we expected to see them so we grabbed some lunch from Legal Seafood in Prudential Center shops.
After lunch, we made our way street side to cheer for other finishers as we awaited the arrival of Gary and Lisa. This spot was right adjacent to the Mile 26 sign of the course and three blocks from the finish line...on the south side of Boylston Street. I mention this only because after 20 minutes of standing three to four people back from the course barricade, Jennifer mentions to me how few people there are on the north side of the street.
I tell her that would be a much better viewing area but it would take us forever to walk all the way around the finish line to the north side of the street.
Note: The bombs where detonated on the north side of Boylston Street. At 2:49 p.m., we are looking to our left at incoming finishers when we hear and feel an loud explosion to our right.
I look to my right and see a plume of smoke rising from the street surface at the finish line. I say to Jennifer, "a generator at the finish line must have overloaded". Just as soon as I said that and 12 seconds later, a second louder explosion occurs just one block away between us and the finish line. Feeling the explosion, not just hearing and seeing it, is something that I still struggle with.
At this instant, everyone knew something really bad was happening. Like a flock of birds evading a predator, everyone immediately starting fleeing. I remember Jennifer holding Finley and me turning to make sure she doesn't get trampled. A police officer sees us with a baby and escorts us away from the street up a set of stairs in Prudential Plaza. Once away from the street, we take a couple minutes to process what just happened. Is this part of something bigger, like 9/11?
Were the explosions from the street or underneath in the subway line? Are we going to have to evacuate further? What about the race? After about 5-7 minutes here, police then enter the exposed Prudential Plaza and order us to evacuate the area immediately. Reluctantly, we break down the crowd barriers on Boylston St. and cross the street heading north towards Commonwealth Avenue.
At this point, I knew the only way we would be able to make contact with Gary and Lisa would be to walk back up the race course to see if we could find him as runners continued to make their way towards Boylston Street.
Runners were being stopped on the race course at Massachusetts Avenue so we continued to head further up the course in hopes of finding them. After 15-20 minutes of searching through incoming runners, we finally spot them.
We shout out to them to come to us but at first they just smile and wave at us not knowing what has happened. It wasn't until Gary noticed the sheer terror in Jennifer's face and screams that they come over to us in complete confusion.
After explaining what happened, we make our way to an opening in the fence line and congregate at a statue on the corner of Commonwealth and Charlesgate East. Residents from the nearby apartment buildings come out offering runners water.
I remember Ann Oliver, a resident of one of these apartments, that invites us into her building to give us a place to feed the baby, allow Gary and Lisa to recover and for us to charge our cellphones which had rapidly died due to the constant texts from friends and family. She was absolutely wonderful and caring and I will remember this woman forever.
After spending two to three hours in the apartment building, we finally received information of where the runners bags were moved so we could then retrieve Gary and Lisa's personal items and clothing. The next few days were emotionally draining. I remember being at my son's baseball game and coaching first base when an ambulance goes by. This immediately takes me back mentally to Boston.
It wasn't until that Friday when one of the bombers was killed and the other was caught that I actually was able to sleep. As a marathon runner myself, it took me several months to regain the dream I once had of someday running the Boston Marathon.
This year, I will not be traveling to Boston due to the logistics of having four children. However, Gary and Lisa will be running to finish what they began on April 15, 2013. As for me, I have since completed my sixth marathon and am now a certified marathon coach through the North American Academy of Sports Fitness Professionals.
I am forever linked to the Boston Marathon and the dream to run down Boylston Street. as a competitor is not only back, but stronger than ever. Boston strong