So begins this re-telling. It was a sunny, early spring day. The temperature was in the mid to high 40's. The wind was blowing about 15 mph from the east, with an occasional higher gust. Maybe too warm for a jacket, but too cool not to wear one. The winners of the 2013 Boston Marathon were long finished, and the field of regular guy runners were in the homestretch, having turned left from Hereford St. onto Boylston St. with the finish line in sight. The crowd was still cheering the runners on. Boylston St. on Patriot's Day is always crowded, and loud, and this day was no different.
I was on Dartmouth St., at a security check-point with several others. Most, if not all of the VIP's had already left and we stood there talking. Right around 2:50 PM, we heard an explosion. We began to move quickly toward Boylston St, thinking it might have been a manhole that exploded. As we got closer, we saw people running away from the finish line area and heard the screams. Now, at a full run, we heard a second explosion. The scene as we turned onto Boylston St. was chaotic.
People were running up and down and around Boylston St., both runners and spectators. I had to assume that anyone who was up and moving was physically OK, so I ran onto the sidewalk in front of the Marathon Sports store. The scene there was surreal. The smell of gunpowder, the taste of smoke as I inhaled, the sight of the injured people and the extent of their injuries, the sounds of people screaming, my radio going off in my ear, and the sirens, and the feeling in my hands as BAA medical staff and I assisted a severely injured person. Our own well-being was secondary to getting our victim out of the area. In a short time we had the victim stable enough to move into a nearby ambulance. Rushing back to the scene I saw that the sidewalk was clear of victims. What was left behind told a terrible story. Where just 20 minutes ago was a happy, cheering throng of people were now abandoned chairs, coolers and other personal belongings. The sidewalk told the tale of the devastating injuries that were suffered. The once vibrant stores were now empty, some with the glass windows blown out by the blasts. Now, an eerie silence hung over the Boylston St.
Because of the concern of secondary devices, and the need to preserve the both scenes, we moved off of Boylston St. As I walked along, I heard my phone chirping away with text messages. I ignored it. Somehow, a call got through. It was my mom. I had to answer that one. My experience told me that if I didn't answer, she would keep calling! :-) "Are you OK?" Yeah, I am, but I really can't talk now. Just do me a favor and let people know I'm alright. I was posted at the exit of the parking garage at Copley Place and met my friend Tony, who is the Security Director at the Copley Mall. Tony told me that he let our friends know, by way of social media, that we were both OK. He was across the street from the second explosion, and we spoke back and forth about it, trying to process events.
We were eventually sent home, but we had to return to work early the next morning, or was it the same morning? Either way, I wasn't home long. What I really needed was to hug my wife and kids, but that would have to wait. In the days that followed, we helped each other get through it. It wasn't easy, every television station was carrying the bombing non-stop. All week long, people dropped food off at the station, and they thanked us for the work we did. Late Thursday the bombers were spotted after killing MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, and after they committed a car-jacking in Allston, they fled to Watertown. One of the bombers was killed in Watertown, and the second was captured after an intense day long search. MBTA Police Officer Dick Donahue was seriously injured in the initial engagement with them. Officers on the scene worked feverishly to stop his bleeding and administered CPR until the paramedics arrived. Numerous officers were injured in the gun battle and bomb-tossing in Watertown.
I was able to get in touch my victim and we spoke on the telephone. Later, I had a chance meeting with my victim, now survivor, at Spaulding Rehab where I was visiting friends who were injured at the first blast site. We spoke for a while, and a few days later we had lunch. The progress the survivor has made is incredible. When we first met I saw someone still trying to come to grip with "that day", and the life ahead. I followed the progress on-line and saw the remarkable change. Pictures of a smiling person who was re-joining life, and learning to live a new life, and accepting and meeting the challenges that life gave. A survivor in every definition of the word. When I speak of this survivor, I use words such as strong, brave, and tough.
Sadly, three young lives were lost in the blasts. The Boston Police, Boston EMS, and Boston Fire did an incredible job that afternoon. Watching the videos of that day, I am still in awe seeing the wave of officers going into the crowd, joined by a wave of white-coated BAA medical staff. Spectators were also in there, helping out the injured people. In the year since, so many stories have emerged about the work that was done at the blast sites. The injured people were off the street and into ambulances in under 20 minutes, and everyone who made it to an ambulance and to a hospital survived. I have known for years that I work with some of the best in the business, some very dedicated and selfless men and women. What I saw and heard that day reaffirmed my belief of just how good they are.
We all watched in the days and weeks following "that day" as our city, our state, New England and the entire country came together. We came together first in grief, then in celebration as the idiot brothers were identified and captured, We became Boston Strong.