"Hey, did you hear what happened?"
I had not. I was still a little groggy and more than a little upset at the fact that I was there at all. To be honest, I don't remember if I had even showered yet. In typical fashion, I couldn't have told you what pages I was supposed to have read for that day, let alone what was in them, and the last thing I wanted to do was sit through the next 90-115 minute lecture.
In the late-morning hours of Monday, April 15, 2013, I was in my second semester of my second year of law school, about to sit down to one of the last class meetings of the year before finals. I can't remember the class, but I think it was either Evidence or Criminal Procedure. I'm pretty sure it was a required course. I know it was a class I was taking with my friend Marc, because he was the one who asked me the question.
"No, what's up?"
I expected it to be law school gossip. Or, coming from Marc, it could have been anything. He brought up the most random topics sometimes.
"There were explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon."
I don't think it registered, initially. I was in Bristol, RI at the moment. Even when I lived in Boston - 4 years for college, 2 years after graduating - I had always remained depressingly detached from the event. I regretted that. Not all of my friends were like that, though. I knew a couple of people who had run it, including one of my baseball teammates in college. Plus one of my best friends ran part of it once on a bet --
The finish line is in Copley Square. A lot of people have Marathon Monday off in the city of Boston.
"There were explosions at the finish line. Two, I think. A lot of people are hurt and they aren't sure what happened or what's going on."
Boston's not that big a city. And regardless, on a day like today, for an event like this, you go where the action is.
"Hey, are you ok?"
Some of my closest friends live in and around Boston. A couple of close family members work downtown. At least a few of them, even if they don't have the day off, might have called out or taken it in advance. It wouldn't be the first time. In fact, I would be shocked if they didn't.
"Steve, seriously, are you alright?"
Marc later told me that it was this moment where he realized that something was seriously wrong, that maybe for me it wasn't just empathy or general fear. He said my face had gone almost shock white.
My laptop had finished booting up by that point. I tried to get news, but I was having trouble focusing. I was shaking too much to type clearly.
"Hey, you want to college there, didn't you? Do you still have friends up there?"
Marc had caught on.
"I gotta go. I need to go right now."
I left the classroom and started making calls. BPD and the FBI (and whatever other agencies were involved) had blocked cell service by that point, but I was able to get in touch with a couple of people before it went full-shutdown. I imagine the color started to come back with each text or answered call. But the whole process took almost 40 minutes. 40 whole minutes of total helplessness, either pacing the floor in the law school building or just rooted to one spot, hoping and praying that everyone I knew and loved was alright.
As it turns out, I was lucky, and so were my friends and family. The relatives I had who worked downtown were nowhere near the explosions. Most of my friends were actually avoiding the finish line at that time since Copley was always a zoo at that hour on Marathon Monday. I had only one close friend near the finish line. She nervously told me she'd been at a cafe just down the street. Though miraculously unharmed, she'd felt the blasts, seen the survivors running terrified past, some staggered, some bleeding.
Eventually, I collected myself and went back to class, finished out the lecture. In the ensuing week I watched intently as the authorities tracked down the brothers who perpetrated that senseless act of terror. I wrote and edited stories on this website about the attack, and especially about the heroic actions of Revolution goalkeeper and legend Matt Reis, whose quick-thinking and selflessness probably saved his father-in-law's life. I nearly roared in public with approval when David Ortiz made his famous "this is our f-----g city!" pre-game address at Fenway. At the next Revs home game, I snapped at Tom Curran and a host of other Patriots media-types who were in the press box for a separate Pats-related event, because they were (unknowingly, in their defense) talking and laughing over a moment of silence in honor of the victims. I raised a glass in a "we got him" toast to my friends 60 miles away in Boston when Dzokhar Tsarnaev was finally captured.
Memories fade and time heals wounds, and I'm sure there was more to that experience for me, both the day of and in the following days and weeks, but those are the things that stick out to me. April 15, 2013 was easily the most terrifying day of my entire life. I lived through 9/11, and I had experienced loss before, but that was the first time that such illogical and random horror had brushed so unbelievably close to my life. I still get shaky and nervous when I think about it. I can't imagine what it must be like for anyone who was actually there, or anyone whose loved ones were hurt or lost.
Our Free-form Fridays usually slant to the humorous, and we like it that way. Today, it doesn't seem appropriate. I'd like to use this to remember the victims of the Marathon bombing, and to commiserate over our shared experiences. Feel free to leave observations, remembrances, or general comments below.