Today, Thursday, I returned to Boston - three days after the horrific explosions of the 2013 Boston Marathon.
I had a glorious day, Monday, watching these amazing athletes. I was one of thousands on the sidelines, smiling and clapping and cheering them on - the runners who can do so much more than us fair-weather run/walkers.
Let me start from my day's beginning: a few weeks ago, soon after I made flight reservations to visit our daughters in Richmond, VA and Sandwich, MA, I realized I would be landing in Boston on Marathon Monday, precisely the minute when the marathon would be starting, 26 miles away from downtown Boston. I spent the next couple of weeks researching and asking questions: how could I get to see the Marathon in a timely manner?
Finally, after traveling up and down the Eastern Seaboard for two weeks (more posts on that to come...), I landed in Boston on Monday morning, 9:20 am, and knew I had to try to see some running. As I walked down the jetway from the plane, I saw a sign: (literally, not figuratively): "Free rides to Downtown: Silverline"
I found the Silverline bus, and took it. It was sort of remindful of Alice in Wonderland's "Eat me" and "Drink me" signs. but I am an adventurer, and so there I went: Silverline.
Silverline took me to the subway, the "T", in Boston-speak. But....where to go from there, I knew not. But wait!! Suddenly, a high school cross country team appeared before me, amongst the throngs of Marathon spectators, and their coaches wore Boston Marathon jackets. Ha ha - MORE Alice in Wonderland antics! The "T" was so, so packed with Boston Marathon humanity, I cannot describe my discomfort. Nevertheless, I followed (ran!) after this high school team, knowing that they would lead me in the direction I wanted to go. I had no clue, no clue at all, what that direction might be, but I just knew I needed to follow them.
Happily, this lemming had a happy trip to the outer region of the Boston Marathon. The subway/train trip to the outskirts of Boston lent itself to a myriad of conversations to be had and to be eavesdropped upon. The fun part was that everyone was happy, upbeat, very, very proud of their runner(s), and just thrilled to be a part of the Marathon day.
There was a father with his two young boys, maybe eight and ten. He was telling his boys about what they could expect to see: their mother was running that morning. The boys were smiling and enthusiastic to see runners.
On one train a British mother held a small bouquet of helium balloons, to give to her daughter at the end of her run. The mother and her husband had come over specifically for her daughter's marathon.
It seemed like any "T" rider had a Marathon story to share, and each of us were happily entertained to hear such.
From my initial vantage point, about ten miles out from the Finish Line, I hopped and skipped from one train/subway stop to another, stepping out to see runners and embrace the atmosphere. And then, on to the next stop. Finally, about 1:30, I found myself at Boyleston/Hereford streets. Half-mile from the finish line. I stopped here because, like Biblical Zaccheus, I knew I would need a tree in order to see the runners at the finish line - I was too short for the crowds. I cheered on the runners, some of whom I recognized from earlier stops. I grabbed a sandwich from the Trident Booksellers, and sought directions to South Station, to head towards Cape Cod and daughter Gillian. I stood outside the "T" station (subway), watching some police officers dealing with a passed out homeless man. I appreciated their gentleness with the poor man. I returned back to Hereford street twice, because it was so fun to watch the runners, and finally, I retreated underground to the "T", and to the trip to Cape Cod. 2:15 pm....
That Spouse o' Mine called me shortly after: Where are you?!
30 seconds later, my Mom called from Hilton Head, SC: Where are you?!
Not a minute later, my son-in-law called: Are you OK?!
Maybe 30 seconds later: a call from daughter Gillian: Where are you?!
And then, daughter Claire in Virginia called: Where are you?!
I had no idea about the tragedy happening behind me, and when I was told, I was...
Sad, to be sure.
Depressed, in an inexplicably fatigued and odd mood.
I went to bed that night, somber and subdued. I refused to turn on TV, and I refused to look online at maps, news, anything related to the here-and-now that would ruin the day I had celebrated, along with so many other innocent, happy, athletically-inclined people.
The next morning, my very first thought upon waking was the 8-year-old boy who was killed in one of the blasts. I am haunted, even now. To lose one's precious, precocious eight-year old boy. Unbearable.
The day after the explosions, I remembered a fun conversation on the "T" with a father very close to my own age. His daughter, and I could easily feel this father's pride for his daughter, from Dallas, was going to run the Marathon with her fiance. At Mile 13, she was to be handed a bouquet of flowers, with which she would run the remainder of her marathon. At Mile 26, the Finish Line, she and her fiance were to be married. Her father held in his hand, a top hat for the ceremony.
I am sorry to say that I have not seen anything more regarding this happy couple and their father.
(NOTE: Daughter Gillian and niece-in-law Katie sent me good news: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/04/boston-marathon-couple-say-i-do-despite-bombings/)
Today, Thursday, Boston is most likely the safest USA city to visit. Multiple police on every corner, multiple military police in every subway station, multiple Homeland security all over the place, many, many bomb/whatever canines all over the place. President and Mrs. Obama came to town, and so that added the security of the Secret Service.
Bostonians I have spoken to are sad, yet resilient. And this, I believe, is what makes us Americans strong. Let's hold strong.