Witness to Terror
Kuemper alum Matthew McDermott reflects on deadly Boston Marathon
May 17, 2013
(AP Photo | Charles Krupa)
Medical workers aid injured people at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon following a bomb explosion in Boston, Monday, April 15.
"We've labored with mixed success to come to terms with the reverberations of those blasts."
Matthew C. McDermott
After finishing my second Boston Marathon on April 15, my wife Heather, seven months pregnant and herself just returned from the race course after cheering on the marathoners, asked me if I planned to return again next year.
A brutal heat wave the previous year had ruined my initial Boston Marathon experience, but that was now a distant memory. This time the weather was perfect. Fan support along the course was incredible. Boston throbbed with energy on this Patriots Day, a holiday celebrated seemingly only in Massachusetts. I'd just posted my best marathon time despite Boston's hilly course.
In the time since finishing the race, I'd actually been pondering this very question, so my response came quick: "I don't really see how I can improve on this experience. There's no good reason for me to return." We proceeded downstairs to partake in the marathon festivities going on all around us.
We were standing outside our hotel, about one block away from the finish line, when we heard two loud blasts. In the time since those fateful moments, we've labored with mixed success to come to terms with the reverberations of those blasts.
We were so close to the finish that our hotel - immediately placed under lockdown - was within law enforcement's restricted area. The area instantly became a militarized zone with heavily armed police, military, and federal agents everywhere. Their startling numbers - swarms seemingly appeared out of thin air - would soon be rivaled only by members of the news media who likewise descended on Boston that night.
We were scheduled to depart the following night. We spent much of that next day pulled by gravitational forces to the police perimeter warding off the area.
The scene was surreal. We could see the deserted finish area where law-enforcement officials were still gathering evidence. At every street corner television news crews were taping segments or standing around. Ad hoc memorials to the victims had sprung up next to police gates. The scene was startlingly quiet considering we were standing in the heart of one of America's busiest cities.
On our way home that evening, a Homeland Security agent stopped and interviewed me at the airport. He sought information and pictures from the race that might assist in the investigation. I was no help; I had heard but had not seen. And we had no pictures from the finish line on race day: Boylston Street, where the marathon finishes, was so packed with spectators that my wife avoided it and instead staked out a spot to watch runners about a mile from the finish.
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