Everyone has a story about the marathon. Everyone I know either lives nearby, or their coworker was running it, or their sister was at the finish line. Like mine.
Monday was such a great day. We had a family walk and then I took Milo for a little park time and some grocery shopping. As I was loading the car, I got a text from Ben: Call laurel. There was an explosion at the Boston Marathon. People are hurt. I felt a pit of fear in my stomach; on automatic, while strapping Milo in his seat, I called. Voicemail. Called again. Voicemail. I started shaking and told myself she was on the phone with my mom, so I tried her. My mom burst onto the line, “What is going on?! Laurel just called me, crying, talking about people hurt. She said she’s okay.” And I laid my head on the steering wheel and started to sob. This all took place before I’d seen a single clip of the explosion (I’ve now seen it about 50 times), before I knew that people lost their legs (At the marathon. They lost their legs.), before I heard that an 8-year-old was gone forever (I held Elliott in a silent house at 5:30 this morning, sobbing at the boy’s picture). Before any of the horror sunk in, the idea of losing Laurel shook me more than anything else I would see that day.
I have a plan for what I’ll do if something happens to Ben. I know the course of action that I’d need to follow if I ever got bad news about my mother. But if anything happened to Laurel, I would break.
She had gotten through on a friend’s phone, but hers was dead, and then we completely lost touch after cutting out in the middle of her call. Even though I knew she was alive, not being able to reach her was maddening. I tried (and failed) to stay calm and find a way to reach her. Social media is such a doubled-edged sword, in good times and bad, but I was grateful for Twitter yesterday; here were real-time reports, information about the poor cell service, lists where you could try to contact loved ones or check in on runners. People gave me comfort that I needed, and checked in to let everyone know they were safe, which was a great feeling. There is always the danger of misinformation, but I’m getting savvy enough to evaluate sources, and in general, I wanted a forum to discuss. We also got our first piece of information about Laurel by Facebook messaging a friend that we knew she might be with. Social media helped my stay in touch with family up and down the East Coast who needed to know that Laurel was okay, and made it possible for Julianna and I to sit and chat and share frustrations casually even though we were 3000 miles apart. I spent three hours texting with Laurel’s roommate, searching missing persons lists, and watching the constant stream of news.
Laurel is safe back home at her apartment. She never was actually at the finish line, but she was only few miles away. The T she was on was evacuated and they were getting calls from her work building in Copley Square and she was stranded and scared but safe. She’ll be feeling the effects for a long time; her office and her gym are directly in the middle of the crime scene, the hotel she works for had lots of marathoners staying with them, and the entire city is still on high alert.
Now that I know shes completely safe, my grief and preoccupation has shifted to the people who died and the people who lost limbs and the people who had to see it. Who where standing right there. All I can think is that I had played with the idea of going in to cheer with Laurel; she plans to run in the near future, and I even texted her about it this morning. And if Laurel HAD been running today, we absolutely would have been RIGHT at the finish line, double stroller loaded up with our most valuable possessions. It makes my blood run cold to think about trying to evacuate with our little boys, and I won’t even let my mind go to the other possibilities.
I’m giving myself just today to process and say, “what if.” Then, I will go on. I’ll play with my kids and wash the dishes and hopefully see my sister. I’ll give where I can and get myself back into the city that I really love as soon as possible. I’ll cheer on Laurel and support her training in any way that I can and when she runs the Boston Marathon, myself and my family will be at the finish line, jumping and cheering for more than one runner.