Exactly one week ago, what should have been a celebratory day for over 23,000 Boston Marathon runners became a day of tragedy. Today, we reflect on the past week, reading personal accounts of a day that will be remembered forever.
Angela Zablotny is a Boston College sophomore who started the Marathon, but was stopped a half mile away from the finish line. Angela is a nursing major.
I had been training for the marathon since January, putting in anywhere from 20-40 miles a week and countless hours of icing, stretching and carbo-loading. I had told all of my friends and family, forcing myself to be vocal about the lofty goal I had set for myself in an effort to ensure I couldn’t quit. I had pictured running by my classmates at Boston College mile 21, and running down the homestretch of Boylston with my brother and sister by my side, and my mom and dad waiting at the finish line with an obnoxiously large camera, open arms, and no doubt tears in their eyes. I had imagined myself getting a medal, taking family photos, and waking up Tuesday morning eager to put on my new Boston Marathon jacket. I would wear it around campus as a symbol of all that I had set my mind to, and all that I had been able to accomplish.
Instead, I woke up Tuesday morning with tears in my eyes, and the difficult decision of whether or not I would put on my bright yellow and blue jacket. What was supposed to be my chance to show people that I had reached my goal became an invitation for people to say, “I’m so sorry” or ask, “Did you finish?”
Seven days later, when I think about the marathon I just start to cry. I cry because so many were not as lucky as I. I cry because I was robbed of that perfect finish, that feeling of satisfaction running across the line. I cry because the person hunted by an entire city for 24 hours was my 19-year-old peer. I cry because I know we are ‘Boston Strong,’ and law enforcement did an incredible job protecting us all and that I should feel safe and at home, but I don’t. I cry thinking of the “what ifs?” What if my knee hadn’t been hurting and I had run a few minutes faster? What if my parents hadn’t gotten delayed on the T by the letting out of the Red Sox game and had been at the finish line? What if my friends on the BC team had been a few seconds slower, a few seconds faster?
The hardest emotion to deal with right now is the guilt that I feel about being upset by not finishing the full 26.2 miles. It seems so wrong that I should feel this way when four loved ones lost their lives, and so many others ended up in the hospital or had their quiet suburban town riddled with gunfire for 24 hours. I am so lucky and so blessed: two facts that have been shoved quite obviously in my face for a full week. Between thousands of strangers screaming the name written in sharpie across my shirt, and the smiles and congratulations from strangers in the city who see me in my jacket, I have never felt more encouraged in such a time of despair.
As I stood quietly at the memorial set up past the finish line on Thursday afternoon, a woman walked up behind me and put a hand on my shoulder. The first two questions she asked were what I expected. “Did you run?” and “Did you finish?”
She paused and then smiled and said “I’m so glad you’re safe.”
Then came the question that I found myself responding to with a surprising lack of hesitation.
“Will you run again?”
Yes. Yes I will run again. I will cross that finish line and run into my parent’s out stretched arms. I will get that family photo. But most of all I will run for those who are no longer with us, and those who are no longer able.
Everyone always says you learn a lot about yourself in 26.2, but in this case they were wrong. It only took 25.7.
Natascha Yogachandra is a junior at New York University, and is part of the Social Media Outreach Committee of the Journal.
I first met Angela Zablotny on the first day of first grade. “Will you hold up my desk?” I asked her. She nodded, and stuck her arm in next to me while I shoved in my books. The following day, she was fondly known as Angie. Thirteen years later, she’s known as Ange, Pooge, Oogie—but most importantly, my sister.
So when I walked out of my class last Monday and looked down at my phone, my heart—my stomach—had never dropped so low. A bomb had exploded where my sister should have been that day.
For months, Angie poured herself into training for the 26.2 mile-long marathon. She would always text me after her runs, the number of miles increasing an ungodly amount each week. Her dedication astounded me—I was thrilled if I ran for a full 10 minutes on my unoccasional “jogs.”
Perhaps, I thought, it was because of what she was running for. The previous summer, Angie lost her high school biology teacher, Heather Boyum, to a horrifying car accident. The 40-year-old had been riding her bike at seven in the morning when she lost her life to a drunk driver. Angie decided to dedicate her run to this wonderful woman—a woman who had touched the lives of so many students in the community.
So when I read that text message from my roommate telling me to call Angie—that there had been an explosion—I couldn’t feel my arms. I fumbled with my phone near Union Square, calling each one of her family members only to hear voicemail messages after several rings. I tripped as pedestrians ran into my motionless body. She was supposed to be crossing the line right about now, I thought.
Then, a Facebook update. “We’re all safe and our family is together…thank you everyone for your love,” from Angie’s sister.
Later, Angie called. “Tasch, they had us all turn around,” she pushed out through short sobs and hot tears.
I watched the video of the explosion as soon as I reached home. I sat at my kitchen table—shoulders shaking, face in my wet hands. I could not believe that Angie was a mere half mile away when all the fire and smoke erupted.
“At least only four people passed,” I heard occasionally over the next few days from classmates and passersby. What a horrifying phrase. Were we growing immune to all the destruction and hurt that now happens every day in all corners of the world?
I wondered about desensitization. I would be lying if I said that I had not grown used to death counts in our newspaper headlines.
Four people. That means four families. Four sets of parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins. Boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, lovers, friends of friends, colleagues, classmates, “that-girl-I-ran-into-at-the-coffee-shop”s.
Later in the week, a professor with whom I work reminded me of the six degrees of separation theory. That is, we’re all connected by a factor of six degrees, at most. Therefore, it’s quite arguable that most of us know someone who ran that day.
So many say that it’ll get worse before it gets better. How about we start pushing for the better.