A SOLO RUNNER MAKES HIS LAST STRIDES ACROSS THE FINISH LINE, JUST MINUTES BEFORE THE FIRST BOMB. PHOTO CREDIT: OLIVIA SIEGEL
by Olivia Siegel
Boston Strong. A phrase that has taken over the lives of millions, including my own, ever since April 15, 2013.
I watched on as the city of Boston was struck with absolute tragedy and terror when two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston marathon. Boston is my home, and I saw it go up in flames as stood at the finish line cheering on the runners on that fateful day.
I’ve been celebrating Marathon Monday for as long as I can remember. The route runs through my hometown of Newton, infamous for “Heartbreak Hill”, the most challenging part of the race. Every year, my family and I post up on Commonwealth Avenue and watch for hours as thousands of runners push their bodies to its limit. Once a day of excitement and support for Boston, abruptly turned into one of disaster.
ANTICIPATION IS HIGH THE DAY BEFORE THE MARATHON AS FINAL TOUCHES ARE MADE ON THE FINISH LINE. PHOTO CREDIT: OLIVIA SIEGEL
That Monday was a little different. I ventured into the city to watch from the finish line, a place I had never experienced the race before. It was my senior year of high school, and I was working on an independent photojournalism project, and I had imagined the finish line would provide an amazing place for photos. Alone, I set off to work on my project.
The city was absolutely bustling; thousands of people watched on and cheered as we stood on Boylston Street, watching the runners complete their last few feet of the race. I took hundreds of photos, conversed with runners and fans, feeling overwhelmed with the excitement in the city. That was when the terror happened.
I stood to the right of the finish line, a few hundred yards back, and began to make my way back to the T after a long afternoon. I remember stopping for a moment to appreciate how incredible of an environment I was in, so much excitement and so much pride.
Bomb number one went off. I looked up and to my right, shocked by the noise and overwhelmed with the smoke that quickly filled the air. There was no time for me to make assumptions of what was happening; yet I hoped it was nothing more than fireworks, a display of celebration. That was until bomb number two went off, this time to my left.
My heart stopped, I knew something terrible was happening and I needed to get out of there immediately if I wanted to survive. Absolute chaos broke out. Screaming, running, pushing. Alone, I tried to calm myself and follow the crowd, trying to listen to any advice that other people were yelling out.
I snuck into an alleyway, an instinct told me to grab on to someone who looked like a mom, and that was the smartest decision I have ever made.
I held on to Pat’s hand for the next hour as I walked with her family miles away from the scene. A complete stranger, and she took me under her wing. I’ve never been in a position where so much confusion and fear took over my being. Finally, I made it home in a cab, where the news would soon take over the next week of my life.
I watched as the week following the marathon tore the city apart. The manhunt caused my own suburban town to be on lockdown, keeping us captive within the terror. As the chase came to a close the following Friday, there was an overwhelming amount pride and love for my city that I’ve never seen. Millions watched on as the terrorist was captured and a sense of safety and freedom burst over Boston.
There is no way to ever rectify the horrible events that happened that day, killing three and injuring hundreds, yet I do know how much strength and power emerged from Boston after the bombings, including within myself.
Boston Strong wasn’t just a phrase to help people cope with the tragedy, but the change of a lifestyle. I’ve never had so much pride to be from Boston, and to share the community with everyone else that lives there.
TWO MEN HELP AN EXHAUSTED RUNNER AS HE STRUGGLES TO FINISH THE LAST STEPS OF THE RACE. PHOTO CREDIT: OLIVIA SIEGEL