The Shoes We Wore
As told to the staff of Boston magazine.
33, South Boston
I crossed the finish line with my girlfriend, Erin. And then, 25 seconds later, the first explosion went off. Everybody was in a panic, not knowing what happened. I knew exactly what it was, because I’d heard it on more than one occasion. I was an Army Ranger. I was a team leader on a forward infantry unit. That kind of stuff happens when you go out looking for bad guys. And that happened to us a lot. And it happened in Boston. I ran back to the first bombing scene to aid the wounded. It looked like a war zone. People had shrapnel in their legs and in their faces. There was blood everywhere. I grabbed a tourniquet and put it on one person’s leg. Checked him out. Nothing. No other bleeding. I put another tourniquet on another person. I was there for under 10 minutes, and that’s how long it took to get all those people out of there—under 10 minutes. That’s how good the EMS and the first responders were. How do you wind down from something like that? You don’t want to sit there watching the news with the same information over and over. When I was overseas, I’d go to the weight room with a buddy and then watch The Three Stooges.
This was my 11th Boston Marathon and the eighth time I’ve run it for charity. I saw up ahead everyone stopping, bunching up, right at the Mass. Ave. bridge. Within minutes, an official got on a bullhorn and said there was an incident at the finish. It was very sad and frightening and emotional. And how ironic, that a lot of these people who were raising money for outstanding nonprofit organizations, trying to help people—a lot of us aren’t the strongest runners or fastest, so we’re out there longer—and we were stopped before we got to our goal. How about setting aside a day when the course is opened again? And anyone who was still out there could go to where they stopped, and they could finish it. It would be a statement against terror, and for our city.
This was my 32nd Boston. This is a resilient city. Next year, there will be thousands more runners to stand strong for Boston. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, I said there’s no way I’m not running next year. My doctor said I was crazy. I said, “I have 30 Boston Marathons behind me, doctor, so let’s get on with it.” They operated on me in 2011, and I ran in 2011 between my fifth and sixth rounds of chemo. People say that’s an inspirational story. No! It saved me. The marathon saved me! Running it, you see college kids cheering you on. You see senior citizens cheering you on. You see kids without hair who are getting chemo—they sit in their wheelchairs all day waiting to cheer for their hospital’s running team. It’s not about running a race, it’s about the entire city of Boston and the entire state of Massachusetts.
Everybody keeps asking me how I am. I don’t know how I am. I was about 60 yards from the second explosion. I was looking for my kids—all I knew was that they were on the left side. It was the definition of terror. I didn’t find my husband and my kids until 5:45. I didn’t know where they were. I didn’t know if they were okay. Everybody who knows me knows I’m afraid of terrorists and earthquakes—I won’t take my kids to New York because I’m afraid of terrorists. I know it’s wacko, but it’s true. I don’t feel mad. I don’t feel angry. I feel broken.