When I woke up last Monday morning, I knew it was going to be a big day… my husband Bobby would run his first Boston Marathon! As you now know, it would end up being a big day for a much greater reason. What we thought would be a day of excitement, crowds, cheers, cow-bells and congratulations… turned into a day of shock, tragedy, despair, and loss. We never expected it to be a day that we would need to dig deeply into our hearts to find forgiveness toward two unimaginable perpetrators.
The historic Boston Marathon is the oldest marathon in the United States. “Marathon Monday” is always on Patriot’s Day which is a holiday exclusive to Boston and some other parts of New England. Every year, over 500,000 spectators are expected along the 26.2 mile stretch between Hopkington, MA finishing at Boston’s famous Copley Square finish line. Whether you have a friend or someone in your family running the marathon, or just want to take a peek at the amazing elite runners, the Boston Marathon is an exciting day in the City of Boston.
On Monday, April 15th around 10am, the runners gathered at the start line in Hopkington. My in-laws and I drove to Natick (near mile 11) to see Bobby and his sister Heather run by. As soon as we caught a glimpse of them, we got in the car and rushed back into Boston…
Down at the finish line, many of our amazingly supportive church friends were gathered with me to see Bobby cross the finish line. The crowds were too impossible to weave through, so we decided to leave the finish line and meet up at the family gathering space on Stuart Street. It was a around 1:30pm. Looking back at it, I see God’s protection in that decision we made to not meet at the finish line, particularly on the left side where Bobby had been running.
Our sunny but brisk day suddenly became cloudy and rather chilly. After Bobby’s sister completed her race and met up with us, we passed around a lot of hugs and high-5’s… it was time to head home so the runners could get a hot shower and something to eat. Around 2:40pm, we waded down Stuart Street through the crowds of runners and spectators.
Suddenly, we heard an explosion… but we didn’t know what to make of it. A few comments were made about what it could have been such as a semi truck crash, although my mind was thinking more terrible things. Ten seconds later, we were at the intersection of Stuart Street and Ring Road, one city block south of the second bomb- right as it exploded. By this time, mobs of people were running south on Ring Road (toward us and away from the explosions). We still weren’t sure what had happened… it was like a nightmare. Children who had witness the explosion were screaming as their parents held them tight while running as fast as they could. A young woman shaking with her hands covering her face screaming, “that was my dad!”… made me realize something terrible had happened. We literally were frozen on the street corner watching this chaos. Immediately, cars and all people were being evacuated from Copley Square, which would become a crime scene for many days to come.
We managed to get our car out of the parking garage after being told we would have to “shelter down” inside. I texted my mom, “we’re okay, in case u heard the news”. Our phones were ringing off the hook. Within in a few minutes, I had my work cut out for me – responding to over 100 texts and Facebook messages. Only two miles down the road, and we were safe at home. I ran upstairs to hug my dog and turn on the news as fast as I could. For the rest of the night the horror of the bombings were flashing before our eyes as we sat in disbelief in front of our TV.
That night, as I laid next to my alive husband, my heart was so grateful for God’s protection over us, our family and friends. I thought about the massive shock our community had just experienced and knew that confusion and anger would creep into our hearts if were were not careful. Our beautiful city would have to deal with the emotional repercussions of this tragedy and find it in our hearts to forgive.
On Tuesday, we were still in disbelief. But the city immediately began to respond. Churches immediately organized prayer vigils, funds were created for the many victims, an interfaith prayer meeting was organized where President Obama would appear, etc. The Boston Police, FBI and other organizations worked around the clock to identify the two suspects and eventually release the photos to the public. “Boston Strong” would become the phrase, and certainly the hashtag of the year.
Despite all of the great things that were happening in response, the week would prove to be an emotional roller-coaster. Between visiting memorial sites, “bomb scares” in many locations of the city (including two near my home), hearing moving stories of survival and heroism, the murder of an MIT police officer on Thursday night (just blocks from my office in Cambridge), not being able to go to work because of it, being on lock-down in our own homes, more bomb scares, we were ready for a break. One more intense man-hunt that Friday night finally gave the city the relief they needed once the suspect was in custody.
New vital information is coming out in the news almost daily… like the next page of a novel, the story unfolds. The investigation will continue. Regardless of the answers that the police are able to give us, we have to know how to move on regardless. I’ve been thinking a lot about my personal faith in Christ and the hope that He brings to my life. Truly believing the gospel gives me the strength to forgive… and I so desperately want others to know of this Hope.
This tragedy helps me to remember another tragedy in which the sin of man caused great harm and pain and death to One who did not deserve it. It reminds me of the nails and shrapnel and sour wine that was forced upon a Savior’s body. It also reminds me of another great injustice that would shield others from receiving the blows of sin. My pastor always says to “never waste your suffering”… Never waste this opportunity to see reflections of Christ and remember the injustice that begot a Redemption this world had never known and still struggles to understand. We should remember our own need for God’s love & forgiveness. And that is why we should forgive. My prayer is that Boston, my beautiful home, would know Christ and his Love. That He would be their strength and hope.