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Emerson College community shows unity after students injured in Marathon blast

Posted by Your Town  April 17, 2013 10:35 PM

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Two days after the 117th Boston Marathon ended in shrapnel and blood, the Emerson College community gathered Wednesday morning at the Cutler Majestic Theater to reflect on events that left eight students injured.

Administrators, students, faculty and staff shared a message of unity, camaraderie, defiance in the face of fear, and gratitude for the safety of friends and family.

“We are Emerson College and Emerson College is us,” President Lee Pelton said. “We are resilient and defiant in the face of evil and destruction. This is our legacy to the city, to the nation and to the world.”

The gathering brought together a diverse crowd of past and present Emerson students. Several took the floor to share their thoughts and experiences.

Senior Lauren Cortizo, who ran in the marathon along with a few other Emerson students, said she has felt more love in the past 48 hours than she has ever felt in her life.

"Emerson is amazing," she said.

Cortizo was in tears by the end of her brief speech.

Emerson sophomores Christian Bergren and Brendan Scully, who ran with her that day, flanked her as she spoke. The two wore bright blue jackets with the Boston Athletic Association logo emblazoned on the back.

“When a tragedy like the Boston bombing occurs, the entire community is affected,” said Emerson’s Counseling Center Director Elise Harrison. “Our sense of security is shaken.”

Seven Emerson students were injured in the twin explosions, though all were released from the hospital the same day. Pelton recalled visiting them in the hospital, where some shed tears.

Some of those who spoke were far from Boston when the bombs exploded.

Katie DeWitt, an Emerson sophomore, was at the Dallas Airport. She recounted how she pieced together what was happening from Facebook statuses and Twitter posts, but she was “incredibly grateful” for Emerson’s phone and e-mail alerts.

Another student, junior Ryan Martin, recalled the immediate e-mails and messages he received from Emerson faculty.

“I felt like I was flailing around in the dark, and I felt like my teachers threw me a rope,” she said.

She urged those gathered to be kind to themselves, to turn off their TVs to avoid further trauma and set aside time to do things they find comforting.

There is no “magic Band Aid” to make it all better, said Student Government Association President Tau Zaman said. But, he added, now is the time to say what we would normally be too afraid to say, be vulnerable and openly share in our love and affection for others.

Emerson alumnus Daniel McDuffie was until recently a manager at a store less than half a block from the second blast, he said. The 35-year-old has worked and lived in Boston for the better part of a decade.

“Don’t let fear grab you,” McDuffie said. The best message we can send is that we are not afraid to go back to the beating heart of Boston.”

He urged people to support local businesses as a show of strength.

“What I’m hearing in story after story is that despair and fear did not have the last word,” said Emerson Chaplain Kristelle Angelli. “Courage and resilience did.”

Emerson College Journalism Assistant Professor Michael Brown quoted Winston Churchill, calling on those gathered to “never, ever give up.”

“I know that the 118th marathon next year will be the best marathon this city has ever seen, “ he said. “Because that’s what Bostonians do.”

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Photo Douglas Yu

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

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