Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Yesterday was the worst day

I had a great weekend and was having a good time at work when I got a text message... did I know if a friend had gone to Boston to run the marathon?

What?!

I jumped onto Facebook and my email and that's how I found out that someone had set a bomb off at the Boston Marathon, killing three people (though it was two at that point) and injuring hundreds (only 20+ had made it to the hospitals by then though).

I was in shock. I still am somewhat, but it's finally starting to wear off a bit to the point where I can take stock.

My first thought was to figure out if my friend was okay. Our club went into overdrive tracking everyone down and two members had no start times. We figured that meant they weren't there. My friend had no start time. But I knew he was planning to go. We had talked about how that meant he couldn't go to the training weekend because he would be in Boston and I know he wasn't at the training weekend because I was there!

Finally, my brain kicked in and I realized he had sent me an email at what would have been part-way through his race so clearly he wasn't there. It turns out he had a conflict and decided not to race at the last minute. Another club member also cancelled at the last minute. So we only had three club members racing. Two of them had already crossed the finish line so they were easy to find, but the one stuck behind the finish line took a while.

On the news, they said those runners were kind of hysterical because they had family waiting at the finish and they couldn't get to them. Obviously, we weren't hysterical back here in the Bay Area, but we were concerned. But eventually "our" guy checked in to our Facebook group and then everyone was accounted for.

I flashed back a bit to Tiananmen Square and how my mom was here in CA for our wedding and how she'd call back East every night to talk to my step-dad and they'd confer and then one of them would FAX some number in China and send off newspaper stories and how it took days to find out that his mom had made it safely to Hong Kong. (She had set off for the train station on her bicycle the day that martial law was declared.) If we'd had Facebook and texting back then, it could have saved us a ton of worry.

After we tracked everyone down, it was time to read the news and figure out exactly what was going on. I wasn't really getting any new information, but I couldn't stop watching. I finally had to give up and turn off the tv so I could do my taxes. (Which still aren't done.)

I have to say that I have lived through a lot of public tragedies including 9/11. Most of them were upsetting on various levels, but few rocked my world as personally as this one. I think it's because I felt a personal connection with the victims and also with the witnesses, the volunteers, pretty much everyone onsite.

First, I knew people in harms way. Not friends of friends or anonymous people via work. But real friends who I interact with on a regular basis. Some of whom I'd be quite devastated if something had happened to them.

Even the ones I didn't know personally, I feel connected to. My club puts on two races a year and I'm a "Lead" for one of them. I have worked the finish line at several races. I have run a ton of races. I have friends who photograph the finishers at races. I've stood around and chatted with the police officers and the guys in the med tents and cheered for the finishers when I've not been racing and talked to the other spectators.

The criminals who did this weren't targeting generic humanity. They were targeting "my people."

Not only that, but in the Fall of 2009, I ran my first Half-Marathon. I was stunned to finish in 2:11. According to some of the race pace calculators, that would put my Marathon finish around 4.5 hours. At the time, the Boston qualifying time for my age group was 4:05 and I began to dream of some day qualifying for Boston.

If I hadn't hurt my head, I probably would have qualified this year. The qualifying time for my current age group is now 4:10. The first bomb went off at 4:09.

So, unlike with other tragedies, when people say "that could have been me" but it probably wouldn't have been... that really could have been my kid waiting at the finish line for me, but instead getting ripped in two by shrapnel.

And that freaks me out and that makes me mad!

The other thing that makes me mad is people saying things like "we need video cameras at the finish line" and that "security wasn't very good" at the event. Well that first one makes me mad because it's just stupid. (If you've ever set up for a race, you'd understand.)

But the second one? They are talking about changing what I love about racing -- the close-knit community where you can leave your stuff lying around and not worry about it -- and turning it into an experience closer to getting through airport security.

So I am more determined to qualify for Boston than ever. Only this time I intend to actually race. Because no freaking coward hiding backpacks in trash cans in a crowd is going to scare me away. That's not how I roll.
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