I have been struggling to put my feelings into words since the tragic event on Monday, April 15, 2013. The support, kind words and love that has come my way from people near and far has had a greater impact than anyone could ever imagine.
Patriots Day has been a favorite holiday in my household for years. Marathon Monday marks that beginning of my April vacation and week off from work. My wife and I have made the early morning commute into Boston many times before to enjoy the competition, celebrate with friends and family while we embrace the true spirit of the Boston Marathon.
April 15th began with a train ride from Beverly, MA. My wife and I were running late, as usual. We took our seats on the crowded commuter rail and were ready to begin our 30 minute commute to downtown Boston. We were happy to bump into Dan Marshall and his wonderful girlfriend, Lauren Gibbs. Dan and I played high school baseball together and we have been friends since we were kids. Dan and Lauren passed by as they walked down the aisle of the train. Dan and I shared a handshake, quick smile and he told me he was heading to the Atlantic Fish Company at the finish line on Boylston Street to watch the racers complete the 26.2 miles of strength, determination and courage. Little did we know our lives would forever change in just a few short hours.
We didn't see Dan or Lauren until we reached the restaurant. The Marshall clan was standing at a high top table on the sidewalk, a prime location to cheer on the runners on this beautiful day. Boylston Street was hopping. There was a group of us that enjoyed the sun, some shade, many laughs, cold beers and great company. We shared stories about what it has been like to watch the Boston Marathon, and Dan vowed that next year he will cross that finish line on Boylston Street.
There are many memories and images that make me smile when thinking about this day. We tracked the leaders on Twitter and anxiously awaited the text updates for our friend, Julie Carney. She was running her first marathon in honor of her aunt, who is suffering from breast cancer. I remember looking at my watch, and it was about 2:30 when my brother called. He was on his way to meet us for a beer and needed directions. All of a sudden the first explosion happened about 75 yards to our left. I didn't hang up. A mushroom cloud of smoke filled the sky. You could feel the concussion. Seconds later, 15 feet away, the second blast. The only way I know how to describe what it was like is by imagining the highest pitched ring and a frightening silence, all at the same time. Smoke, fire, screams and silence.
I jumped on top of my wife to cover her. I remember yelling directions at Lauren and we were able to scramble into a safe position. All the while my brother was still on the phone screaming at me to tell him what happened. All I could muster to him was "Get out of the city!"
People began to scatter. I was anxiously awaiting a third or fourth explosion. As the dust settled brought Lauren and my wife into the restaurant. My sister-in-law, Taylor, and her boyfriend were already standing inside. I left the group and moved to the street. I needed to get out there and help all those people who were down in agony. All I can remember was scanning the area for injured, for those I could help. But there was carnage everywhere. It was as if I was having a nightmare. All I could think was this can't be real. This wasn't happening in Boston. This just couldn't be real.
And then I thought about Dan. I couldn't find him. As I looked around for him, I saw Matt Patterson, an off duty Lynn Fire Fighter, who was assisting a 7-year-old girl. This little brave soul was suffering from a serious leg injury. Matt was calm under pressure and was so clearly a leader. Matt, a stranger before that moment, motioned to me and I approached him. We needed to stop the bleeding. We were able to get my belt around her leg and provide pressure. At that moment, Matt and I knew that we couldn't wait for emergency workers to come to us. We made the decision to move quickly. We carried the young girl down Boylston Street toward a parked ambulance. We scooped her up, and I held the tourniquet. I tried to provide comfort for her. I told her to focus on my face and to not look at her leg. It wasn't until Thursday night, April 18th that I realized we were carrying Jane Richard, the younger sister of the 8-year-old little boy, Martin Richard whose life was taken from him so suddenly and senselessly.
As we approached the ambulance, Jane's father, Bill, was there. He was holding his son trying to make sense of this colossal shit storm. I told him to keep the boy away and cover his eyes. I promised to follow-up with him about the state of his little girl. Once we arrived at the ambulance, I asked Mr. Richard to have his son sit on the curb. I explained that I would swap out and I would sit with his son so he could be with his daughter. Mr. Richard raced toward the ambulance and I sat with the boy on the side on Boylston Street. I checked the young boy for injuries and attempted to answer all his questions and ease his concerns. I explained to him that his sister's injuries were serious, but that his sister was on her way to one of the best hospitals in the world.
When his father returned, I ran back to the epicenter of the second blast. That's where I found Dan kneeling next to a young boy, Martin Richard, who was critically wounded. Dan had removed his shirt and was working with several heroes in an effort to save lives. I moved the metal barriers to help get people to the ambulances quicker. We passed backboards and tried to support the professionals who were arriving on the scene.
I had no idea how much time had passed. It finally seemed as though the emergency personnel had things under control. Now we felt we could return to our loved ones.
As I stepped back, I will never forget my initial thoughts, the smell of sulfur or the ringing in my ears. Baghdad. Boylston Street had turned into a third world country in a matter of seconds. The only difference was we were trying to save lives in front of a restaurant that serves $50 steaks.
We were interviewed quickly by Boston Police and moved to find our families and friends. Dan and I walked several blocks before being reunited with everyone. We all hugged, cried and continued to move away from the chaos.
We met up with my brother and Jen at Mass General, and then made our way to Salem Hospital. I was told that my ear drum was ruptured and I could have a possible concussion. Dena had a horrible headache, but we were so very fortunate that our injuries were not significant.
Acts of terror are designed to scare us into changing our daily routines. They want us to rethink our travel plans, second guess decisions once made without hesitation and ruin our spirit. We now know that the horror that the Richard family, and so many others experienced. I can't begin to imagine how difficult their recovery will be, both mentally and physically. Every member of that beautiful family was impacted by the actions of two horrible men. I hope and pray that they will be able to help find peace in the difficult days to come.
I refuse to let these acts change my love for this city, and my love for the Boston Marathon. Next April, I will be at the Atlantic Fish Company anxiously awaiting a text message to tell me Dan Marshall will be turning the corner onto Boylston Street. And I will cheer as Dan cruises by to finish the 26.2 miles to complete his dream, and I will remember what we as a city overcame on that fateful day. We are Boston Strong!