Marathon Monday is one of my favorite events. I love being in the city and watching the runners cross the finish line. I always get teary eyed thinking about each runner’s journey that brought them through the training and ultimately across the finish line. The city is alive with people and the atmosphere is electric. We stand shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers that end up feeling like old friends as we share sunscreen and snacks and cheer the runners on together, united.
Sadly we were united in tragedy this past Monday as we witnessed the horror of two explosions near the finish line. As I write this chills still run up my arms at just how close we were. I am blessed to be writing this and looking out the window at my children blissfully playing basketball with their neighborhood friends; the scenes from yesterday removed from their thoughts. It is not lost on me that others are writing a different story. For them my heart breaks as I pray.
My husband works for New Balance and had been in the city for days leading up to the marathon entertaining customers and having business meetings. The boys and I traveled up by train on Sunday to join him at the Lenox Hotel at the corner of Boylston and Exeter just feet from the finish line. Our room was on Exeter Street on the sixth floor. Although we couldn’t see the finish line we had a great view of the street. We had been in the mix earlier in the day and watched the elite runners finish from a viewing party at Solas Restaurant but I had taken the boys up to the room for a post lunch rest while my husband stayed with his colleagues. Our youngest was napping and our older son and I were reading when we heard the first explosion. It sounded just like a cannon and my heart stopped. Ten seconds later we heard the second blast. I raced to the window to assess what was happening. It was clear there had been an explosion near the finish line across from the stands. My mind raced to determine our safest course of action; do we stay or do we run? Rescue workers and police were coming onto the scene and there had because there had been no subsequent explosions I decided to stay off the street and locate my husband. He walked through the door that very moment. He had been in the elevator on his way up with VIP passes to bring us out to the finish line. Had he come fifteen minutes sooner we would have been right there. A sobering thought. My mother-in-law and her friend were at the finish line. They were directly across the street from the explosion in the bleachers. We confirmed they were okay but we weren’t able to see them because the hotel locked down and they were ushered up Boylston Street away from the scene.
We watched as the brave rescue workers attended to the wounded and cleared the scene leaving behind a bloody sidewalk. Moments later the Special Task Force was there with bomb sniffing dogs. We later learned that they had found more bombs in the stands. What was already horrific could have been worse. We were already in the process of putting on our shoes when cell phone service was cut and we were asked to evacuate the hotel. We grabbed the children, our coats, a teddy bear and ran. We stopped in front of Back Bay Station and weighed the safety of getting on public transportation or finding another location of safety. We opted not to ride transit. As we were deciding our next step my husband received a call from the CEO of New Balance. Were we okay? He invited us to come to his house in the South End less than a half mile from where we were. He and his wife opened their doors and took us in. They gave the kids ice cream cones and rented them a movie while we reached out to loved ones. I can’t describe my gratitude at just how at home they made us feel. Around 8:00pm they insisted we borrow one of their cars and drive home.
I was so grateful to pull into the warmth of our driveway and tuck the kids into their own beds. The comfort of routine and home melting away the panic of the day. Our neighbors greeted us with hugs and we shared a glass of wine as we recounted the day from everyone’s perspective.
We were right there. We witnessed the horror. We count our blessings and give thanks that we were okay. We pray for those whose story is forever rewritten. We hope that we, Boston, live up to our “tough and resilient” nature and stand with solidarity in the face of this tragedy. Boston Strong.