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Kerry H. McManama Headshot

Community Is a Marathon

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AP
AP

On a sunny Patriots' Day morning, I took my regular perch at Mile 19 of the Boston Marathon. I stood with my friends and family, in the middle of Heartbreak Hill.

Five years ago, I ran "Boston." After recovering from my eighth ear surgery, which was conducted, this time, at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, I made the decision to do what many have done before me -- I would take on the Boston Marathon. Since I had been a "weekend runner" and a marathon virgin, I decided to train with a team. I needed a reason beyond my own desire to tackle this fabled monster to trek 26.2 miles to that finish line in Copley Square.

I ran for Boston Children's Hospital, where I had survived seven previous surgeries. The Miles for Miracles program partnered me with the beautiful and inspirational Jayla Hudson, a toddler braving Cockayne syndrome. Jayla and her resilient parents cheered me on, as did the family and friends who carried me from my first frightening surgery to my most triumphant procedure, that recovered part of my hearing, and a lot of my faith in healing.

Back to Monday morning, at Mile 19, I felt the sun on my face, the wind at my back, and the appreciation of the runners who grabbed the plastic spoons I held -- filled with petroleum jelly -- and massaged them into the sore and chafed spots on their bodies, as they looked ahead to the remaining two ascents of Heartbreak Hill.

I felt the camaraderie of my townspeople who hollered, "Go, Dana Fah-buh!" at the people running on behalf of Dana Farber Cancer Institute. I felt pride as I cheered for runners from Michigan, Canada and Notre Dame University. I felt warm when they -- too fatigued to speak -- smiled, winked, nodded and sighed heavily in my direction, as if to say, "Thanks, I know you're running this race with me."

As I walked back to my home -- a quick stroll from Commonwealth Avenue -- I heard a neighbor say, "They've stopped the marathon," and I quickly engaged all social media channels at my disposal. I felt shock, fear and desperation. I felt trapped. I felt angry.

I thought, "This is OUR marathon. This is OUR day," and, as I said to the runners toward the back of the pack, "Today is YOUR day. Run YOUR race -- all the way to the finish line!"

In the hours following the explosions on Boylston Street in Boston, there have been media reports, blog posts, Facebook profile photo updates, and endless spectator reports. We don't know who did this. We don't know why. We don't know what's next -- for our city, our country, our world.

We do know this: no matter what happens next, no matter who is threatened, no matter how hard our enemies -- domestic or international -- try, we are here; we are strong; we will persevere. When bombs go off, we will run toward the devastation to save our neighbors, while the purpetrators run away. When tragedy strikes, we will carry members of our community toward safety, while the perpetrators attempt to carry on their agendas of evil. We will band together precisely when they try to tear us apart.

We are all Bostonians. We are all Patriots. We believe in the joy, peace, and safety we find in community. We will run this marathon to the bitter end, and we will not stop until we have all crossed the finish line safely.