As I sat in my office and listened to the jury’s verdicts on the 30 counts against “white hat” “bomber number 2,” or Dzokhar Tsarnaev, for the Boston Marathon bombing, I found myself trying to figure out exactly how I feel. It seems like just yesterday that the first explosion knocked me and my friend Kaitlynn to the ground as we stood near the finish line. It also feels like it never really happened at all – and that this has just been one long, smoke-filled nightmare.
I have seen firsthand the devastation and destruction that those blasts caused. I have seen the strength, courage, and resolve of those who lost family members, friends, limbs, hearing, jobs, sleep, and so many other things since that first bang. I have seen the city of Boston come together in a way I didn’t know was possible. I have seen humanity, charity, generosity, and support from neighbors and friends, strangers and family. I have seen the City of Watertown turn into what could only be the set of a Hollywood movie – except it was real.
Neither Kaitlynn nor I had planned to watch the marathon that day. But when she asked if I wanted to join her watching a couple of our friends crossing the finish line, I said yes. We found a pretty good viewing spot, and I grabbed a blanket from the car. Kaitlynn was on my righthand side, and in front of her, close to the street, a young girl was holding up a pink sign. I’m six foot four, so Kaitlynn and I switched places.
Boom. On the ground. Smoke. Blood. Screams. What the #$%& just happened? I crawled over to Kaitlynn and dove on top of her. She was trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t hear her. I looked down at her legs and saw the injury to her calf. I picked up the blanket, pressed it against her leg, picked her up, and carried her around the corner. I knew I had to do something to slow the bleeding, so I took off my tee shirt and pressed it against the wound, using my sweatshirt to tie it down. With the help of strangers, I put Kaitlynn in the car, and we sped off to the hospital.
That was only the beginning for Kait and for so many others. Surgeries, therapy sessions, funerals, fundraisers, interviews, somber tribute events, tears, and smiles followed. Each and every survivor’s story is different and is theirs to tell. For me, since that day, I have run two marathons including Boston 2014 with the 4:15 Survivor team and NYC 2014 with Team MR8 (the Martin Richard Foundation Team) and a dozen halfs after not running more than three miles at a time in my life. I have become friends with so many amazing people.
Which brings me to today. How do I feel? For starters, I feel relieved. I hope that this begins to bring some level of closure to everyone affected by these heinous acts. I feel grateful for the first responders, the medical community, the jury, the average citizens that became heroes, the generosity of so many people, and so much more. I feel guilty for some reason. Why am I OK? Why is hearing loss my only injury? I feel sadness for all of those who were badly injured or worse. I feel joy for those who have made tremendous strides in their recovery. I feel thankful for the support I received from family and friends. I feel hope that we as a people are better than this, and nothing like this is ever going to happen again. Naïve? Maybe, but I guess I feel that, too.
It seems like everyone I know has asked about where I stand on the punishment. Do I want “white hat” to be sentenced to death, or do I want him to spend the rest of his life in jail? My thought is that it really doesn’t matter. I feel that either is too good for him, and that regardless of whatever the punishment is, it will never undo all of the damage that he and his brother caused.
My focus is this: I hope that either way, the fact that justice is being served brings even the slightest sense of closure to everyone who was impacted in this tragedy. I hope that all of the good that people showed in the days, weeks, and months after 4/15/13 continues to prevail over evil, and that the message of “No more hurting people, peace” that Martin Richard conveyed on his now-famous poster lives on.