At the 2013 Boston Marathon, due to the bombs that exploded shortly before I was going to make the turn off of Commonwealth Avenue onto Hereford Street, I become one of 5,633 “stopped runners.” I was at mile 25.8. Like some 39,000 other runners – stopped or not – and millions of spectators, residents and volunteers, I too wanted to return in 2014. We were there not just to savor the tradition of the venerable Boston Marathon. No. We were also there to show our support for the freedom our country nurtures deep in the fiber of our being. Acts of violence will never cause us to avoid the activities that we enjoy, we work hard to support, and we deem worthwhile for the benefit of all.
The “Dear Boston – Messages from the Marathon Memorial” exhibit running through May 11, 2014, sprang from this single act of terrorism. But the Dear Boston Memorial broadly represents and supports the attitude described above. The exhibit is made up of select, archived items from the spontaneous, makeshift memorials that sprang up near the finish line during the month following the bombings. A carefully arranged assortment of inspirational notes, posters, clothing, banners, running shoes, a slide show and much more, showcases the global outpouring of solidarity our unique running community achieved following the tragedy. So many of us caught only glimpses of these memorials in the months after the 2013 events unfolded. Now we could soak in nearly all of it.
So, along with so many other runners and families in town for the marathon a year later on April 21, 2014, I ventured to the Boston Public Library to take it in prior to my race, and to be with others who shared my emotions.
There were not many dry eyes among the people I saw at the exhibit. We all wandered quietly, pointing, sharing in whispers our feelings with others there. As I left, I heard many commenting how surprised they were at the depth of emotion the exhibits stirred in us. I was not immune to that either. Two days later, as I neared the finish, a hand-drawn sign held high on the course next to an American flag again brought tears to my eyes:
“WE OWN THIS FINISH, THIS COURSE, THIS CITY, and THIS COUNTRY!”
I raised my hands in victory, a celebration delayed a year after the trauma, chaos and sad deaths in 2013. What an amazing weekend, and an emotionally packed experience. For me. For everyone.