Thursday, July 4, 2013

*boston, day 5*

Life has been chaotic lately. There was a point when I was feeling quite overwhelmed and thought I was going to suffocate from all we had going on. Hence, the lag in blogging.

Our obligations have slowed down a bit, school is out, I was never more ready for the lazy days of summer.

I am finally getting to the last of my trip to Boston. It seems like I have been home much longer than just two months ago.

Monday is the day that we made this trip in the first place. The highlight of our trip--to cheer on my sister in her first Boston marathon.

My dad and sister woke up bright and early to get my sister to the bus that would take her to the beginning of her race. He came back to the hotel, we slept a little while longer, went to Lexington to pick up a couple souvenirs for the boys, and then headed off to see the other part of the Freedom Trail that we didn't get to the day before.

We saw the site of the Boston Massacre.

The Old State House.

The Old South Meeting House.

The King's Chapel Burying Ground. This is the oldest cemetery in Boston. The guide told me quite a few interesting tidbits about this place but I was dumb and didn't write them down and now here I am two months later and can't remember one of them.

There were headstones everywhere with skulls, winged skulls, and some with angels. In the 1600s there were not many decorations put on headstones but when they later were integrated onto the headstone, the skull was meant to scare the visitor of the grave into piety. I am sad because I did not see a so called "famous" tombstone with Father Time chasing a skeleton. We hope to take the other boys back here soon so I will be sure to look for that one next time.

Then off to the Granary Burying Ground. This cemetery boasts the headstones of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere to name a few. It is amazing to see some of the work on these headstones. So intricate and beautiful.

Samuel Adams.

Paul Revere.

John Hancock.

I loved seeing these beautiful trees lining the streets and it was especially beautiful in this exquisite setting.

Boston Common.

Massachussetts' State House.

The Robert Gould Shaw/54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial.

And we were done with our amazing historical journey. Little did we know we would be part of history itself.

We hopped on the T and headed down to Copley Square. The Copley Square T station was closed for obvious reasons due to the race so we got off on Arlington and debated whether or not to venture down to the finish line. We had been getting text messages updating us on how Erika was doing during the race. She was doing awesome and so we figured she would be finished around 2:00 Boston time. We got off the T at 1:30 and walked down to Berkeley Street. Once we got to the corner, my mom started to turn left to try to make her way through the throngs of people to try to get closer to the finish line. To do this, we would have had to walk almost two blocks south, head two blocks west, and then another block and a half north to get around the family meeting area and everything set up for the race. I stopped my mom saying that I didn't think we would have enough time to get any closer because what if we missed her? I thought that staying where we were was the best place for us since we were right at the area that the runners exited after receiving all their swag from finishing the race. Everyone agreed that this was a good place to wait and we patiently waited for her to cross at any minute.

We waited. And waited. My mom started to get worried and asked my dad repeatedly if he had received a text saying she had finished the race. He hadn't but it wasn't too much later than we originally thought she would cross so we waited some more. We watched jubilant participants find their families and take pictures, listened to the commotion of applause and cheers of spectators supporting the runners, observed the months of intense and careful planning of those who put their hearts into this race to make it successful. One of the measures put in place was a woman on top of a watchtower with a bullhorn repeating directions to the weary marathoners on where they could find their belongings. I began to tune her out because although it was necessary, I was sick of hearing what bib numbers needed to go where over and over and over.

Finally, my dad received a text that Erika had finished. We began to watch for her come through the runner's exit. It was 2:44 p.m.

A few minutes later we heard an explosion and saw white smoke curling up toward the sky.

Keep in mind that in the area we were in was the runners exit. There were thousands of people shouting and cheering and walking around and it was quite loud. After the first explosion went off, everyone looked toward the noise but continued what they were doing albeit in hushed tones. When the second explosion sounded, everyone was instantly and eerily silent.

The woman on top of the watchtower who I had desperately been trying to ignore now said something into her bullhorn that had me hanging on her every word. "Um, I don't know what that was."

It is amazing how many different thoughts can run through your head in a split second. I wondered if it was just celebratory cannons because we were in Boston on Patriot's Day for crying out loud. Hadn't we just been at a reenactment and watched cannons go off? I searched the sky and didn't see any aircraft that might be dropping bombs nor did I see a huge mushroom cloud materializing in the air. Relieved that we weren't actively being attacked by terrorists, I quickly picked up the phone and made a phone call I never thought I would have to make.

"Justin, there were two big explosions and no one knows what is going on. I am trying to stay calm but just in case anything crazy is happening, I love you." We talked for a minute as he tried to scour the internet for any news. It is a strange feeling to be right in the middle of something and have no clue what is going on.

At this point it didn't seem like we were in any immediate danger because we were a block and a half away from the explosion and we were blissfully unaware of the carnage just down the street from us. We found my sister and the mood around us was still tentative but people started talking again. We congratulated Erika on her accomplishment and even found time to snap a few pictures of her while we chatted about her experience. We found out that Erika had crossed the finish line, walked to the corner from the middle of the block where the finish line was and sat down for a minute to rest. Once the explosions happened, she got up and quickly made it down the block to find us. At first I was sad we weren't right at the finish line to see her cross but I am so thankful that we stayed where we were!

As Erika walked to her bus to get her bag, I started hearing sirens become louder and the number of them seemed to be multiplying by the second. I felt relatively calm up until I saw a wave of terrified people run right toward me. That is when I started to feel panicked. I thoroughly believed there was a gunman chasing these poor people and they were headed right for us. It was the single most horrifying moment of my entire life. I felt a pit in my stomach but put on a calm face for Nick. My maternal instincts kicked in and I immediately grabbed him and while shoving him around my back told him to stay behind me. I have lived a good life and I would protect him in any way I could. We found a doorway and hunkered down for a brief second. At that exact moment, my phone rang. It was Justin telling me that there had been a bomb at the finish line and that I needed to get out of there as fast as I could.

I relayed this information to my family and realized that there was not in fact a gunman, the wave of people had been running from the horror at the finish line and the emergency vehicles trying to navigate through the crowd which was no easy feat since everything was closed off. I am sure many of the people were running to get out of their way.

We couldn't get back on the T to get back to our car--and really, getting back on the T was not even an option for me even before we found out the T was officially shut down. I would have had to be dragged kicking and screaming before I would have ever gone on the transit system with the threat of a bomb enclosing us in underground Boston forever--so my poor sister had to walk a few extra blocks to get back to the parking garage. She was a trooper.

Cell phone service was spotty due to all the people on their phones and the tall buildings in the city. I got texts from worried friends and even was able to have a few calls come through from my mother in law and my brother in law wondering if we were okay. The closer we got to our car, the safer I felt and knew we would be okay. It was strange getting back to Fanueil Hall marketplace because everything seemed normal. People were trying to sell us Lego minifigure keychains and street performers were all over the place while there was chaos just a few blocks away. I finally got in touch with Justin 42 minutes after he told me there was a bomb. He said it was the longest 42 minutes of his life.

I was grateful that we had seen everything we wanted to see and already had plans to go somewhere else for our last day of vacation. We ordered pizza and just stayed glued to the T.V. as we watched the events of the day unfold. So sad for the innocent bystanders who had their lives changed in an instant. For those who lost their limbs. For those who lost love ones. I feel blessed that we were safe and together and that my sister was able to cross the finish line safely and achieve one of her goals. Nick also commented that "he never thought he would be part of a terrorist attack. Check." I am grateful I didn't have all of my boys there because that would have increased my stress level a hundred fold. I am grateful that my phone call to Justin wasn't the last time I talked to him and that I would be seeing my darling family in just two days.

I am so proud to live in this wonderful country and live among those who band together in times of hardship. Seeing people jump in and serve others without hesitation was inspiring.

It will definitely be good to get home and squeeze my family. So happy I have them.


Kendrick and Desiree said...

I have been anxiously awaiting this post. It must have been rather hard for you to write so it is understandable that it would take awhile to do. You have had a tough year my friend, but your strong spirit and your positive outlook on life come shining through with each post you write. You are wonderful and you amaze me. I hope you are having a PERFECT summer!

Mark said...

Wow. What a beautifully told story. You capture so many human thoughts. I am so glad you wrote this down to share. Thank you. You continue to amaze me with all you do. What a wonderful trip, full of unforgettable moments.