Many people have already written about how the Boston Marathon represents something more than a race. It serves as the one day where people around not just Boston, but the world, come to a 26.2-mile area and show support. It does not matter where a runner is from, but the fact is that they are doing something that so few people can accomplish. Some do it for charity. Some dress up in crazy costumes. All have an end goal – finish the race.
When the two explosions went off Monday afternoon, someone or some people attempted to destroy that spirit. Fortunately for Boston, they did not succeed.
Seconds after the bombs went off, first responders, volunteers, and others ran to help. Stories have surfaced that some of the Marathon’s participants kept running until they could reach Massachusetts General Hospital to donate blood. One Boston University Athletics trainer, Larry Venis, was photographed in action next to a police officer trying to help others.
Support existed at the finish line despite attempts to stop it. People helped others that they did not know and probably never will purely because it was something they needed to do.
On Commonwealth Avenue, a little more than a mile away from where the explosions took place, a different kind of support presented itself to me personally.
About an hour after the string of police cars blasting their sirens ripped through BU’s campus, hundreds of students made a trek to the western portion of Commonwealth Avenue. The walk was long, and eerily quiet. The sound of sirens wailed in the far distance, a helicopter cut through the wind and the only time people walking spoke was when they received a phone call.
“I’m OK. I love you too,” passersby said.
In the process of walking west, athletes who participated in the marathon began to pepper the crowd. Some looked fine, others dazed and woozy.
Steve fit into that latter category. Wrapped in his marathon-issued thermal blanket, Steve was crossing the BU Bridge, but his steps looked uneasy. Along with a friend, I walked up to Steve. We asked him if he was feeling all right and if he needed to use one of our phones. With shaking hands, Steve asked me to try to call his wife. Exhausted from a race he never had a chance to finish, his phone had died and he did not know where his wife was.
Steve’s wife had told him that there was an explosion when he passed her a few miles from the finish line – at least that is what Steve said. For whatever reason he kept running until he was stopped. He thought he could walk back to his hotel, but suddenly he felt sick. The impact of running more than 20 miles had hit him.
Steve’s shaking hands started pawing at his bib. He couldn’t remember his wife’s phone number, but it was on the reverse side. He read it to me, I dialed it, but phones had stopped working. At this point Steve slowly crumpled to the ground. I texted his wife saying Steve was with us, he was OK and that he was going back to their hotel.
When Steve sat down, a handful of other BU students came over. One had a water bottle and the other told us she was CPR certified. They gave the water to Steve and asked him where he was staying. My friend attempted to call his hotel and find a way to get him back. I stood to the side and continued to try to reach his wife.
After maybe 10 minutes, Steve felt better enough to walk, but we could not let him walk alone. Two of the people who had come over to help walked him to his hotel in Cambridge.
Hours later I received a text from a number I did not recognize. It read, “So glad to see that there is still good in this world in the midst of all this chaos.”
It was Steve’s wife. I never got her name, and she never knew mine or those of the other students who helped her husband get back to the hotel. All she knew was that I had tried to contact her to tell her Steve was all right.
That text doesn’t belong to just me, though, it belongs to every person who stopped to help. All of these people had the real spirit of the Boston Marathon with them. Support each other. Lend a hand. Help each person get to his or her own finish line.
This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and the Boston University News Service.