The Show Must Go On

Five years ago, before I got injured, I ran the New Jersey Half Marathon. It was a poetic experience running by all the landmarks of my 17-year-old life, from the hospital where I was born to the synagogue where my cousins had their Bar Mitzvah ceremonies to the Moss Mile, the wood plank stretch of boardwalk that inspired my personal statement for college. And while it was exhilarating to run through years of memories, at the same it was an experience that forced me to be very much in the present. People from all over the state were cheering me on and smiling volunteers were showering me with gummi bears and mini Power Bars. Any other day of the year, the orange rings and crushed paper water cups would have been litter, but on that day it was all transformed into confetti, the textured stuff of celebrations. Some of the best times of my life had been spent at the Jersey Shore, but as I cruised down the final stretch on Ocean Avenue, nothing felt more magical, not even those memories.

I live in downtown Boston, and in light of risk-averse and crowd-hating parenting, I knew better than to watch the race from the finish line, even though it's less than a fifteen-minute walk from my apartment. I was going to spend the night in Brighton and then watch the from Washington Square, at mile 23 on Monday. So the night before the Marathon, I decided that I'd walk by the finish line and take a few pictures, since that was as close as I was going to get to the area for the next few days. Even though the race wouldn't be underway for another 12 hours, the air was pregnant with anticipation and triumph. After months of shaking my fists at the runners who'd unceremoniously run me off the sidewalk during their tempo runs (and whom, as they ran three abreast on the path I use to commute to work, I had wanted, in turn, to run over with my bike), it all felt right. The bleachers and the yellow and blue B.A.A. banners adorning Copley made a sort of perfect, cosmic sense in the twilight. I was so proud to be a part of the city of Boston and to have this beautiful, historic scene in my backyard.

The next day, as I watched runners huff and puff and stood with friends who, like good Bostonians on Patriots' Day, were downing Sam Adams, Budweiser, and Harpoon (I stuck to the gluten-free cider). We got out there around noon and were enjoying the slightly-chilly but otherwise stunning weather. Washington Square was throbbing with activity, with music blaring and all-American burgers and hot dogs sizzling on barbecues. At some point, even though I looked kinda ridiculous, I had someone take this picture:

Like some terrific harbinger at around 2:50PM, a runner in front of us collapsed. As people nearby began to panic and officers directed runners like car traffic around the woman, who was having a grand mal seizure, I was reminded: terrible things happen at marathons. People pass out from dehydration and heat exhaustion, their heart give out, bones get broken. It's a major physical feat and not every body is cut out for that much bodily stress. People die at races like these every year.

But not like this.

I was at school 4 miles away from Manhattan when 9/11 happened. It was catastrophic, indeed, but my 11-year-old self didn't really have a grasp of what was going on or a substantial connection to the events. I hadn't even realized that the Twin Towers and the World Trade Center were the same thing until later that day. So yesterday's tragedy was different for me. As a former runner and 9-months'-proud Bostonian celebrating her first Marathon Monday, yesterday should have been a day of wonder. Instead, it was a day of terror. And just around the block, where I walk almost five days a week, for my doctor's appointments in Copley, for groceries at Trader Joe's on Boylston, for after-dinner window-shopping at Lord and Taylor's, for hot chocolate at L.A. Burdick's, and for admiring the sheer beauty of the Public Library. I'm still in shock, and it might be a while before I can walk that way without feeling uneasy, but I feel so fortunate that I and the people I love are unharmed, including those who were close to the finish line yesterday.

As the Larry Moulter saying goes: "Only three things matter in Boston: sports, politics, and revenge."

Boston is a strong city. This won't go unpunished. #LoveBoston.