BostonIt was 3:10 on Monday afternoon April 15th 2013 and I was meeting with Sherryl our Keene Office Manager.  Heather, one of our recruiters, charged into the conference room.  She had a panicked look on her face.  She said “Julie you need to call Whitney”.  Whitney is my 22 year old daughter who was volunteering that day at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  I could tell by Heather’s facial expression and tone that something was very wrong.  I asked her “why…what’s wrong?”.  She said “two bombs have exploded at the finish line.”  Suddenly, my vision went fuzzy, I could hear my heart beating in my ears and I felt dizzy and nauseous.  I don’t remember the details of the next few minutes as I scurried to dial the phone on my desk and scan my cell phone for some clue that my daughter was ok.  At that moment Whitney’s father came running into my office he looked scared, he was pale and shaking all over.  I immediately thought “oh my god…what does he know?”.  Those few moments passed in slow motion and my senses only processed blips and sound bites, nothing connected or made sense.  My cell phone was filled with unfamiliar numbers that had tried to reach me and text messages from people I don’t know.  I scrolled through until I saw a message with my daughter’s name in it.  It said “phones are not working, Whitney is with me and she is ok”.  At that moment I felt like I could finally breathe.  I sat down and started sobbing…..she was ok. 

What my co-workers had not told me yet was that the bombs had created a living nightmare on the streets of Boston, there was blood everywhere and reports of multiple casualties, lost limbs and pure chaos.  While my daughter was safe she was still in the middle of that horrific scene.  My mind moved from worrying about her physical safety to concern for her emotional well-being.  What was she seeing?  As an athletic trainer there to help runners was she enlisted to care for trauma victims with missing limbs?  Was she ready for this, could she handle it?  I still had not actually spoken to Whitney and cell phone service in the area had been shut down.  Next came the news of potential undetonated bombs in the area.  My fear for her safety started all over again, my heart raced and panic set in.  I just wanted to hear my daughter’s voice and I wanted her safely OUT of the city.

Over the course of the next few hours I was able to talk with Whitney.  She and her classmates managed to walk to the edge of the city where they were picked up and brought to the safety of a friend’s home.  I needed to be with her and she needed to be home.  We started driving toward Boston, my car could not move fast enough and I could not wait to see her and hug her.

The events of that day forever changed our family and especially Whitney.  However, we are the lucky ones, we were reunited and our pain was temporary.  There are hundreds of victims and countless family members who were not so fortunate.  They were ordinary people just like you and me, who went out to the streets of Boston to enjoy a beautiful day, cheer on a family member and partake in a longstanding tradition.  As a result their lives will never be the same, Boston will never be the same and we will never forget this dreadful day in history.

We should all take a lesson from my very brave daughter Whitney.  One of the first things she said after witnessing this unspeakable tragedy was “I will be back next year”.  She has a love and passion for athletics and sports medicine.  This was her third year in a row selected to be at the finish line and even after the events of that scary day she wants to be there again next year. She could live in fear that it will happen again.  She could hide in her apartment and avoid large sporting events and group activities. Instead, Whitney now knows these things can happen…even to her.  She knows we live in a scary world and there are bad people out there.  But she is not letting the bad people win.  She and I both believe there are more good people than bad in this world.  The thousands of runners and spectators from all around the world, the elite and the amateur, the young and the old and the hundreds of volunteers deserve better and they deserve to have this special tradition continue on without fear.  While we may never forget the events of April 15, 2013, we must move on and we must not let fear paralyze us.   Maybe this is the year that I will train for and attempt the marathon myself.  I am very proud of my daughter and I am proud to be her mother.  Stay strong and carry on!