My family was in Boston on Marathon Monday. My entire side of the family. My marathoner sister Rachel- who raised over 11k in honor of my Dad for Dana Farber- my parents, my sister Emily, Rachel's best friend Barry, my sister Kate, her husband Tom, and their three little boys Quinn, Cole, and Declan.
I wasn't there. I was at Disneyland. (More on that bizarre juxtaposition later.)
When the first bomb went off, my family was seated in V.I.P. bleachers at the finish line. As fate would have it, they had recently been gifted these stellar seats by a wonderful family friend, otherwise they would have instead been mere feet across the street to watch Rachel cross the finish; the spot where they normally stand and cheer, the exact location of the first bomb.
In fact, Kate and the boys were standing on that spot only the day before, cheering on Tom for a 5k he ran on Sunday.
This picture- which made the front of the New York Post and Boston.com- is an image of my family fleeing the bleachers. They're the ones looping around and running down the stairs. This photo simply haunts me.
|Photo credit: David L. Ryan/ Globe Staff|
If they had been standing in their usual viewing area, I might not have my family.
If my Dad hadn't decided to stay back at the hotel because he wasn't feeling well, or if Tom hadn't decided on a whim to run the last two miles with Rachel, or if Tom hadn't brought his cell phone, or if Kate- at eight months pregnant- hadn't been so quick to grab Declan, or if Emily hadn't taken off work or Barry hadn't decided to adjust his plans or if Emily and Barry and my Mom hadn't been so quick to grab Quinn and Cole, and if and if and if.
Back in Anaheim, P.J. had been holding my phone and saw that a call was coming in from my Dad. We were on a gigantic carousel with the girls at the time, and more than a little confused as to why my Dad would be calling right around the time Rachel was hitting Mile 24.
"Something's wrong," P.J. told me.
As it was, "we" were very lucky. Tom helped Rachel finish her marathon- albeit by the waterside- and my family members eventually all met back up after taking convoluted routes through Boston, staying well away from the crowds and main thoroughfares. As Kate told us- "Clearly someone crazy had planted devices in the area, so how was I to know which way to go?"
I'm grateful that they were able to contact Tom (whom, as Kate informed me, never runs with a phone) and Rachel, diverting them from the finish line and letting them know everyone was okay.
I'm angry that Rachel, after training so hard and earning this for herself and our Dad, was denied the thrill of crossing the finish line for her first marathon.
I'm devastated for the innocent victims and their families. Crushed. Horrified.
I'm guilty that I was so incredibly far away, waiting in line at the tea cups and pretending normalcy for Nora and Susannah, while simultaneously waiting on reassuring texts that the group had found one another. Watching people shove to the front of the churro cart while refreshing our browsers and feeds.
I'm saddened for my nephews, who saw and smelled and felt things which no one should ever have to experience.
And I'm grieving that this- which is not my story, but instead a retelling from someone standing at multiple "30 minutes to ride from this point" signs- is a slap in the face to the marathon and Patriot's Day and everything Boston holds dear.
I'm so lucky to have my family safe and sound. Others weren't lucky. This is a national tragedy and a horrifying state of affairs and the stuff of nightmares. But right now, I can't help but feel lucky (and all of those messy emotions which come along with it) that they're okay. That a series of coincidences added up to have each of them in the right place at the right time. And I have to go with that one. Blessed. Fortunate. Providential.