“At 2:49 p.m on Monday, April 15, 2013, the unthinkable occurred. A deed so horrendous that it will be remembered as one of those days that freeze in one’smind for all time, like JFK’s assassination on November 22, 1963, or the terribledestruction of September 11, 2001. Every citizen of the USA — including thethousands of participants, and the hundreds of thousands of friends and family whoknew someone at the Boston Marathon, can still pinpoint where they were at thatparticular moment. They remember what they thought and felt when hearing orwitnessing the atrocity of a terrorist attack at a marathon”- Excerpt from 50 Abilities, Unlimited Possibilities
This picture was taken in front of the hotel in Boston; just three blocks over myleft shoulder is the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I’m sure I looked drained aftercompleting 26.2 miles, so that kind officer walked with me for the last two blocks tomake sure I got to the airport okay. Neither of us realized just how how much ourworld was about to change.
That race was my third completion of one of the greatest athletic events in theworld. It was also the fourteenth marathon; only 36 to go in our 50-marathonchallenge. I rolled across the finish line 11 minutes before noon and started heading tomy flight. I had to be at work the next morning, so the clock was ticking. Boarding isalways a difficult process as it involves transferring from my regular chair to an aislechair; a narrow contraption which can make tight turns and fit down the aisle of aplane. However, I do get to board first. There is rarely a First-Class seat available, butin that case a passenger politely offered to change seats. I was assigned to 1C in thefront row, and soon joined by the window seat passenger. As he was stepping over mylegs to get to the window seat, I noticed his running shoes.
“Are you a runner or do you just like really nice running shoes?” I asked.“I’m the President of Saucony Running Shoes, Richie Woodworth.” He replied.2:45 p.m. — wheels up. It would be almost three hours before our planetouched down in Atlanta, and for that brief period those of us in the air were unawareof what had happened.
Richie and I were both tired – me from my 26.2 miles and he from a long week ofhosting the Saucony Expo exhibit – but we talked for a bit about our experiences withBoston. I mentioned the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and their efforts tosupport those with spinal cord injuries, and threw in a plug for possible sponsorship ofour challenge. We eventually became quiet and I drifted off to sleep.
5:30 p.m. — wheels down. Cell phones were activated once we landed and inturn both of our phones starting dinging and buzzing wildly. Richie’s demeanor quicklychanged after looking at his phone; he was very quiet for a while as he read and repliedto texts.
“Did they tell you who won?” I eventually asked. “There was a bomb at the finish line”
Word of the bombing spread like wildfire as the passengers started to deplane. Iwas in complete disbelief and confusion; going from the euphoria of completing one ofthe greatest races in America to the bleakness of learning about people being killed ormaimed for life.
I can’t imagine the fear and dread that Richie was experiencing as he stared athis phone; his company had a booth at the finish line. My 26 e-mails, 13 texts and 9voicemails were all from friends and family concerned about my wellbeing, but Richiewas distraught as he was left to wonder about the fate of his employees and team thathe left behind. I could not comprehend what he must have been going through on thisPatriot’s Day; Monday, April 15, 2013.
Three years later, on April 12, 2017, I got to meet Rebekah Gregory – a survivorof the Boston Marathon Bombing – and read about what she was through on thatdreadful day. A movie that recounts the event – Patriots Day, with Mark Wahlberg,Melissa Benoist, and Kevin Bacon – is one that I highly recommend.
My favorite scene in the movie is when Mark Wahlberg says,“What I saw today? Good versus evil, love versus hate. There’s only one weaponyou have to fight back with, it’s love. Your wrap your arms around each other, Idon’t think there’s a way they could ever win.”
Watching Patriot’s Day brought back heartfelt memories of that day for me, butalso things that I did not see myself. Now, I understand how a tragic act of one or afew can change the world, and how it affects everyone in a different way. Mark may beright; we have to fight back with love.