One Year

Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 12:23 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

The 2013 Boston Marathon took place a year ago today. Of course, that annual big event would be overshadowed by the explosion of two bombs at the finish line at 2:50pm, just a few hours after the winners had crossed.

Three people were killed at that moment, dozens more seriously injured. The medical personnel who volunteered at the finish line to handle cases of dehydration, heat stroke, and muscle strains became, in an instant, medics in a war zone. It was later reported that the medical tent personnel triaged 58 people—several of whom had limbs blown off—in less than a half hour.

One of the registered nurses in the medical tent that day, a friend of mine who is also an officer in a U.S. Army Reserve medical brigade, recently spent three weeks in annual training exercises simulating mass casualty situations, which for their purposes were defined as five or more casualties. She said that after Boston, five casualties was a piece of cake.

People have moved on with their altered lives. The families and friends of the three dead, along with the loved ones of the M.I.T. police officer killed three days later by the alleged terrorists (or, as I call them, dirtbags), have made it through the first year. Survivors have recovered, some continuing to learn how to use the prosthetic legs that replaced the real ones they lost. Marathon organizers have planned this year’s event taking into account the need for increased security. Boston and state police, with federal law enforcement, have developed new public safety strategies based on lessons learned. Some of the runners who were prevented from finishing last year’s race have taken advantage of the Boston Athletic Association’s offer to run this year without having to re-qualify. Likewise, some of the volunteers who dealt directly with the carnage have decided to go back to the medical tent.

Today at the finish line, which has already been painted on Boylston Street in preparation for next Monday, wreathes have been placed in memory of the victims. A commemorative service will begin in a few minutes at Boston’s Hynes Auditorium. As I watch some of the coverage on television, I am more than a little weepy, which surprises me because 1) I was 40 miles away at my office when the bombing happened, 2) I didn’t know any of the victims (although several of my friends were very nearby); and 3) I never cried back when it happened, going instead from shock at the attack to indignation by the time the suspects were identified and hunted down. Probably thousands of other people feel the same way I do and, like me, don’t really understand why.

Maybe it’s because, as I’ve said before, this may not be personal to me as an individual, but it’s personal to me as a New Englander. This corner of the country is very stoic, its inhabitants proud of our history as the cradle of the American Revolution. Boston seems like a big city, but in many ways it feels like a small town. And the Boston Marathon, the oldest annual marathon in the world, is our special party in which we are kind enough to let others join. Crashing it for the sole purpose of killing and maiming people is bad form, and we take it personally. In the immortal words of David Ortiz, “This is OUR fucking city!” The implication being, How dare you come into our home and attack us and our guests! How dare you take our wonderful event and ruin it with blood and body parts! A year ago, it made me angry. I’m still angry, but I’m also sad, and it has taken a year for that to happen.

Some things can’t be understood or explained, so I won’t try. I’ll just let it happen. And maybe, on Monday, I’ll head into Boston and watch a marathon.

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