My editor at The Washington Times Communities page asked me to write about yesterday’s bomb attack on the Boston Marathon from the perspective of a runner and reporter who has both run and covered events like it.
I wrote this:
The attack was meant to deafen our resolve, demoralize us, to terrorize us. For what purpose? We don’t know. Who knows why hate marauds the collective streets of the world perpetrating unspeakable evils.
That’s what the streets of Boston symbolized yesterday: the streets of the world. It’s what the streets of every major marathon come to mean on race day. The marathon is a globally unifying event, a universal symbol of perseverance in the face of adversity. It couldn’t be truer now.
You can read the entire column here. As I usually do, I tried to focus on the positive, even in the face of so much desolation.
It was hard to do. The attack on the Boston Marathon yesterday affected me in a profound way.
As news of the attack flooded in, I was instantly reminded of another dark day in America’s history. As a New Yorker, I was in the city on 9/11. Both of my roommates at the time worked within spitting distance of the World Trade Center. One of them saw one of the planes crash into the World Trade Center from a conference room in her building at the World Financial Center (a complex that also sustained damage in the attack), the other was caught on the street as the towers collapsed. I honestly didn’t know if they were alright until they arrived home to our apartment on foot hours later, one of them still covered in the dust and debris from the towers’ collapse.
It’s an image I’ll never get out of my head: my roommate’s brown hair turned gray from the building’s ash, her shoulders shaking from tears as I hugged her when she came through the door. She put her outfit from that day in a bag intended for the dry cleaner. The bag sat in our hallway for weeks, and eventually made its way into the trash.
I spent 9/11 in our apartment fielding phone calls from friends and family—especially theirs—who were unable to reach either of them. Other friends made their way to our apartment to wait, watch the news, and get updates from loved ones who worked downtown. It was like a vigil. We spent the day crying, pacing, and worrying, horrified by what we saw on television, horrified by the plume of smoke rising over the city we loved. We didn’t have to watch TV to see it. It was just outside our window.
Yesterday brought the terror of that day back, as my phone began ringing and buzzing with friends and family concerned that I was at the race.
I wasn’t. I was in Colorado for the wedding of a dear friend. My husband and I set our alarms early on Monday morning so we could watch the live stream of the professional races at the Boston Marathon from our hotel room. Shortly after the pros finished, we began our four-hour drive to the airport in Denver.
My husband had qualified for the 2013 Boston Marathon, but it was already sold-out when he ran his qualifying time in November at the Philadelphia Marathon.
But I had dozens of friends, teammates and even family at the race. Some were running, some where there to cheer, and some were there for work.
As soon as I heard about the attack via Twitter I took to my phone calling and texting all the people I knew that were there. Within two hours, I received word from them all that they were OK, despite the fact that a few of them were on scene when it happened or just a few minutes away.
But hundreds of other people were not so lucky. The attack left at least 154 people injured and 3 dead, and the toll continues to mount. I’m absolutely heartbroken for them, for their families, and for everyone who experienced yesterday. Truly, deeply heartsick. I feel as if my own family has been attacked. And it has. As runners and marathoners, we belong to a global community. If you attack one of us, you attack us all.
As for my husband, he’s planning to run the 2014 Boston Marathon. And I’m planning to be there to cheer him on.
It’s what we do. It’s what we must do. The human spirit and the spirit of the marathon—which I think of as one and the same—must live on, especially when hate and evil are trying to kill it.
My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the Boston Marathon attack: the innocents who died, who were injured, who witnessed it all, and the family and friends of everyone who has been affected. My heart is with you. And I’m grateful to everyone who has stepped in to aid victims of the attack. You are truly heroes.
Karla Bruning is host of On The Run, New York Road Runners’ web show about running. She has finished six marathons, two triathlons and trains with the New York Harriers. Follow Karla at RunKarlaRun.com, The Washington Times Communities, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.