One of my students, Rich, was watching the Boston Marathon near the finish line when terrorists set off the two bombs. He is a runner, but he was injured this year and could only participate as a volunteer and spectator. The message below, with other names changed, describes how he helped rescue one of the marathoners and arranged to keep her safe. The original message is slightly edited for this blog entry.
I'm not sure if you will have the time to read this email but when you have a moment, I'd like to share with you our story of the marathon and yet another example of the goodness of people and in particular a Tufts student.
Here are the details of our horrific experience and the angel we met along the way. We came back from Hong Kong early so we could watch [our daughter] Susan run the marathon since it was such a special personal moment of triumph for her. She had lots of ankle problems as a kid and had been told she'd never be able to run by her surgeon. So you can imagine how jubilant she was starting to feel as she rounded onto Boylston St. and started down the homestretch. She had run 26 miles and the finish line was in view when the bombs went off. Tom, was at the finish line, across the street from the second bomb. My sister and I were a half a block away from him.
As you know everyone is physically ok, thank God, but we were really shaken. The cops stopped the marathon on Comm Ave. and directed those runners to get thermal blankets and water. Unfortunately, Susan was stuck in no man's land on Boylston without any direction or help. I had yet to see her so I didn't know where she was but given her pace I knew she was very close by. It was mayhem. Injuries everywhere. Cell phones shut down. I didn't know if Tom was ok and I couldn't find him. I didn't think Susan had crossed the line yet since we didn't see her but we had already missed seeing her at mile 9 when she blew past us. She had run a consistent 9 minute mile the entire race which would have put her right at the finish line when the bombs detonated. I was in a complete panic. What I didn't know was that she had a leg cramp at mile 24 which set her back the precious seconds that may have saved her life.
I tried to get to where I thought Susan might be but the police stopped my sister and she was screaming for me so I turned around and brought her into the Mandarin hotel. After that I couldn't get out. Security evacuated us from one building to another as they found or suspected additional bombs.
Here is where your Tufts student enters the story: while on the course at mile 9, I met Rich, who had spoken to Susan once or twice this past fall when he signed up to do the marathon. He wasn't able to practice or run because of knee surgery but he came to cheer on the Tufts team (some 100+ runners). He showed me how to put her bib number into our phone so that we could track her and because of that he also was receiving updates on her progress and knew when she was close to the finish.
When the bombs went off, he raced into the chaos putting his own life at risk to find her. He got past the swarm of people and the police and pulled her out of the absolute chaos. He told me he just focused on what I told him she was wearing; black running tights with a pink stripe. He knew that we were supposed to meet friends at the Mandarin but couldn't get there because of security so he took her to the Sheraton hotel lobby knowing Tufts had arranged transportation from there after the marathon.
Through the grace of God and your helpful orchestration of Tufts family, I went to that same lobby and found her. She was hypothermic, dehydrated, and in terrible shock. Rich had done the best he could to give her his jacket and water. By that point cell phone service was intermittent so we were able to contact Tom and learned that he was safe in another hotel. Eventually, he found his way to us and we got out of there. Rich stayed with us the whole way helping us get safely home even calling his fiance to give us a lift from the train station.
You can only imagine how grateful I am that we are all safe. I'm grateful for leg cramps. I'm grateful for a daughter who listened to her body and slowed down. I'm grateful for intuition. I'm grateful for heroic angels named Rich who suddenly arrive in our lives and find a way to rescue our daughter from unbelievable devastation and get her to safety. I know we will all learn from this experience and it will affect us in important ways. God bless the others who were not so lucky.
My friend Gloria wrote to me this morning:
"In the aftermath of sadness and fury I have felt comforted by those words of the beloved Fred Rogers who said that when he was a boy, in times when he felt scared, his mother always told him to look for the helpers. For every one damaged person who has the capacity to harm other people, there are those millions of others who operate on the instinct of the goodness of humanity."
I think Rich, like so many others, is an example of those "who operate on the instinct of goodness of humanity".
Thank you, Bob, for all of your careful planning and for your remarkable speech the other night that we found so comforting.
All the best to you,