Sunday, April 21, 2013

Boston Marathon: Ordeal At The Finish Line



This story should have been about a 56 yo female from the Pacific North West, a common runner running the race of her life, the most prestigious marathon in the world.

It should have been a story about a red-eye coast to coast trip, a marathon expo, marathon gear as a badge of honor, settling at a pretty brownstone building, carboloading, bus loading, bus bonding, pre-race jitters, athlete village, meeting friends, happy pictures, porta-potties, start line.

It should have been about the physical, mental, and emotional experience of every single mile throughout a 26.2-mile course; about the connection with the crowd, and about every mile split. 

It should have been the story about crossing the finish line and kissing the ground of another conquered state on my 50-state quest. 

But it is not that story. 

It is the story of horror and ordeal that started when I turned into Hereford and heard a huge blast. I immediately thought it was a bomb but looked at the fans to find some cues in their faces but they kept cheering on. Then I heard the second explosion, I couldn’t focus on the race anymore, I was trying to understand what was going on. I saw confused faces and the crowd looking and walking in all directions. I turned into Boylston and saw the smoke by the finish line. I slowed down and when I by mile 26 I stopped, the police was coming running toward us to stop us and protect us. Complete chaos. I couldn’t react. I felt on my knees and started crying. The only image that came to me was my daughter being blown up while waiting for me at the finish line. She bought her airplane ticket back in October to be with me for the race. She cancelled her trip at the last minute to stay in Venezuela to vote in April 14th presidential elections. She would have been there on that side of the street because I always run on the left side. She would have been there. She would have been there. Then I thought of my mom who should be in Copley Place, the building right behind the Public Library where the finish line was. Then thought of me running by the areas where the explosions happened, I was 3:20 minutes away from the first blast, and 2:30 minutes from the second, but the recurring thought was my daughter standing at the side of the street by the finish line waiting for me. And at this very minute, that is still the picture that comes to my mind. I can’t let go.

A lady that saw my distress offered me her vest. I was wet, it was 51F, very windy, and overcast. She also helped me to contact my husband and son. She dialed for me, I was shaking. She could communicate right away as only minutes have passed since the explosions. The police cars haven't even arrived yet to the scene. They did when my husband’s call went through, he said “congratulations sweetie”. I told him “No, No…. There were two bombs. Two bombs exploded by the finish line. I am OK. Please, call Diego (my son) and tell him to call my mom to stay where she is. I will go and get her.”

Police directed me and other runners to the medical tent that was right there. I was shivering, they ran out of blankets but gave me a cotton sheet that did the job. Two men were lying down on cots, two other were being helped, two girls were sharing a wool blanket. I shared the cot with one of them who asked me if I spoke Spanish. She happened to be from Caracas, Venezuela, city where I was born and raised. She was crying thinking of her family, boyfriend, and friends who would not know if she was OK. She mentioned where she was staying and I told her not to worry that I would help her to get back to her apartment in Beacon St. when things were clearer. I learned that she was member of the VO2Max team in Caracas, where one of my very good friends runs. I told her that as soon as we found a phone I would communicate with my son for him to send a message to our common running friend. About 5 minutes later the police evacuated us from the medical tent in Boylston and told us to move toward Dalton. We moved to the corner of Dalton and Boylston and we sat on the sidewalk by The Capital Grill. The medical personnel gave me a very thick wool blanket that one of the runners let on a cot. I was very wet and I needed to avoid getting Raynaud, a disorder that when getting cold, narrows the blood vessels in my fingers hindering blood of getting to the surface of the skin and turning the skin white and blue.

A couple of girls, Kathryn and Macie, were passing by and I asked them if they could help us to make some phone calls. I was very concern about my mom and the evacuations. She is 84, doesn’t speak English, and I knew she would not be able to go back home by herself. From that moment on the girls stayed with us and told me they would not leave me until I reunite with my mom. Not too long after, the police evacuated us from Dalton, mentioning that there was possibility of more devices. We entered in the Sheraton Hotel and sat on the floor at the lobby. The lobby was packed with runners and bystanders. Sheraton’s personnel were amazing, providing us with water and warm towels to cover ourselves. We still had no information on what was the magnitude of the tragedy. I presumed that people had been killed. Cell lines collapsed; it was impossible to communicate with anybody. I lost track of time. Kathryn and Macie where constantly dialing my son’s and mom’s cell numbers saying “everything is OK. Your mom is OK.” The comfort that they provided during those hours was priceless and I will forever thank them for their kindness. The Venezuelan girl saw somebody known at the lobby and she went with him. Then we learned that 2 people had been killed and there were dozens of injured. I was in shock, I couldn’t react and I felt like a zombie. I broke again. I let the girls resolve and make the decisions on what to do and when and where to go. I wasn’t capable of even thinking. They finally got a hold of my mom, and she told us the exact location where she was at Copley Place. I told her not to move that we were on our way. The plan was to cross to Prudential Center and Copley via the Sheraton sky bridge, but when we got to Prudential they had just closed the bridge to Copley and we couldn’t go through. We needed to go through the street, but at our attempt to leave Prudential, all buildings were on locked down and nobody could get in or out. As soon as they lifted the lock down we walked to Copley through alternate streets as the main streets were closed. When we got to Copley Place this was being evacuated, and my mom was not where she had been. I started looking on the street and finally saw her at the sidewalk almost 2.5 hours after the attacks. The girls and I had tears in our eyes. Kathryn and Macie, immense thanks for all your help and kindness. God bless you. 

From there my mom and I went to try to recover my bag. I needed my phone. We walked about 0.3 miles to get to where the bags were placed. The area looked like a war zone. No smiles but tears, no happiness but sadness. We runners looked like refugees walking wrapped on blankets, with our heads down on isolated streets. The Boston Athletic Association, BAA, off loaded the buses and placed the bags on a nearby street. With all the chaos and street closures, BAA kept the organization to the highest levels. Once I recovered my bag we walked home, 0.4 miles away.

What came in the aftermath of the explosions were dead and destruction. Three young and beautiful souls were killed: Martin Richard, 8; Lingzi Lu, 23; and Krystle Marie Campbell, 29. 180 injured, amputations, people in critical and serious conditions, sadness, anxiety, vigils, prayers, and memorials for the victims and their families, 24/7 sirens, police, bomb squads all over the city, bonding with the runners and the city of Boston, healing, unity, strength, and determination.The marathon jacket , that "badge of honor" became a special symbol in the somber city. We runners looked at each other, nodded our heads, and shared a sad smile.

On Thursday, the interfaith service at the Holy Cross Cathedral, 4 blocks behind the apartment where I was staying, provided me some closure. Thousands of people gathered to comfort each other. We were one. Boston was one. I felt that, even with the suspects still on the run, the commotion was about to be over and the people were ready to start the healing process. Until midnight.

I woke up at midnight due to endless sirens; one after another, after another, for more than half hour. Instead of turning the TV on I texted my husband and son: “Tons of sirens.” My Hubby encouraged me to go back to sleep, but my son texted back: “Because a cop was killed in Cambridge. A gunman killed him at the MIT campus... Multiple shots and explosions in Watertown.” My mom and I had been in Watertown on Wednesday night having dinner at the home of a very close friend from my teen years. TV was on for the next 20 hours. The city of Boston and its suburbs were on locked down. Metro and taxi services were suspended. All businesses were closed. The manhunt in Watertown became the center of our world. The rest is history. 

I wholeheartedly share the words of our president during the interfaith service on Thu 4/18: Our faith in each other, our love for each other, our love for country, our common creed that cuts across whatever superficial differences there may be -- that is our power. That’s our strength… That’s why a bomb can’t beat us. That’s why we don’t hunker down. That’s why we don’t cower in fear. We carry on. We race. We strive. We build, and we work, and we love -- and we raise our kids to do the same. And we come together to celebrate life, and to walk our cities, and to cheer for our teams… And this time next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever, and to cheer even louder, for the 118th Boston Marathon. Bet on it. Tomorrow, the sun will rise over Boston. Tomorrow, the sun will rise over this country that we love. This special place. This state of grace. 

My dear running partner Michelle texted me on the day of the events: “Who would’ve thought that your daughter would have been safer today in Venezuela than in Boston.” True. That may have been providential, and although I am extremely sad I have no fears. 

All marathons leave special marks, but this particular edition of the Boston Marathon, the 117th, will be indelible. I will work hard to come back in 2014 to run this great city of Boston, city that has been carved in my heart and in my soul forever. 

And my daughter will be there at the finish line waiting for me. 
 
Thanks to all that were concerned for my well-being and my mom’s. All my love.


sincere-lee
lizzie lee


30 comments:

Nohemi De La Hoz said...

Lizzie como estas? Tu estuviste en el maraton de Boston?

Kim Crum Klein said...

Lizzie, I am so glad you and your daughter and mom are okay. I can't even imagine what it must have been like for you that day. You are truly a survivor!

Backofpack said...

Beautifully written, Lizzie. Hugs on Tuesday!

Backofpack said...

Beautifully written, Lizzie! Hugs on Tuesday...

Maria Eugenia Ball said...

Hola mi amor como estas? estuvimos muy pendientes de ti y como siempre en nuestras oraciones

Maribel Reinoso Rey said...

Lizzie...que bueno saber de tí...un abrazo muy grande.

Maria José Morante said...

Un abrazo bien fuertote Lizzie, no puedo esperar hasta poder dartelo en persona.

Bob Martin said...

Nice to see you on here.

Diego Moreno said...

I love you mom. I cried reading this.

Samuel Friedman said...

flaca gracias a Dios...te escribimos varias veces y te llamamos pero no respondistes.....

julia said...

Lizzie- I am so glad you, Ali and your mom are ok. You have written such a beautiful story about a horrendous tradgedy. You are strong and I love you. Besos.

lizzie lee said...

Thanks to all. I am deeply affected.

Helena Paneyko said...

Llamé apenas supe. Me dijeron que estabas bien, y respiré profundo, agradecida por tu vida :)

Sharon Sha-Run Butler said...

I am so thankful that you and your family are safe. I'm truly sorry that you had to witness such horror. I hope your heart heals in time.

Irene Lobon said...

Mi querida amiga, no hay palabras para reparar por algo como lo que ocurrio en Boston...solo ver hacia adelante y apoyarnos en el cariño de los demas. Un gran abrazo, te tengo en mis oraciones.

MarathonChris said...

Thank you for sharing your story - I am thankful that you and your family are safe and look forward to running with you again someday my friend!

kjaj71 said...

Beautiful, Lizzie. Your story made me cry, but also helped my heart to heal over this tragedy.

kjaj71 said...

Beautiful, Lizzie. Your story made me cry, but also helped my heart to heal over the tragedy in Boston.

Arlene Spengler Vradenburg said...

Beautiful, Lizzie. Your story made me cry, but also helped my heart to heal over the tragedy in Boston.

Susan Pierce Richards said...

Lizzie Lee you have a way of putting into words what for many, including me, could not. I'm so sorry for what you and far too many others witnessed and experienced. I am so grateful for your safety. I wept when I read this... Boston was my home for many years, like you I am a runner... I cannot imagine what this has been like, it is unfathomable... Thank you for sharing this with us.

Maria Carolina Perez Rodriguez said...

LOVE YOU !!!!
Well written as always
Los tiempos de Dios son perfectos
Gracias a Diego que posteo que estaban bien inmediatamente y nos evito muchas angustias...
Cao

Anonymous said...

Mi querida Lizzie, estoy en total consternación por lo que pasaste junto a tu Mami y a tus compañeras. No me había metido en Facebook desde hace tiempo y hoy decidí hacerlo y me encuentro con tu testimonio. Perdona que no te haya contactado antes, a pesar de que te tuve en mente por esta terrible tragedia. Una vez más eres un gran ejemplo para todos los que te conocemos y admiramos tanto. Te agradezco en el alma lo detallado de tu recuento. Al leerlo me hizo ver aun con más claridad el horror que se vive en este tipo de actos tan monstruosos. Seguiré rezando por todas las familias afectadas,y por que Dios te de fuerza para superar este trauma tan grande por el que has pasado. Mil cariños para ti, para tu linda madre, para tus bellos hijos y para tu esposo. Con la gran amistad de siempre,
Tu amiga, Marina Andueza

Anonymous said...

Lizzie, you have been in my thoughts all week. I saw the message from Diego that you were ok. When we hadn't heard from you, I knew that you were still processing your ordeal. I am so glad you are ok, but very sad that you and everyone in Boston had to go thru all that you went thru...My heart aches for those who died and those who were injured...Thank you for sharing...Hope to see you soon, Love you, benny...

benny said...

Lizzie, you have been in my thoughts all week. I saw the message from Diego that you were ok. When we hadn't heard from you, I knew that you were still processing your ordeal. I am so glad you are ok, but very sad that you and everyone in Boston had to go thru all that you went thru...My heart aches for those who died and those who were injured...Thank you for sharing...Hope to see you soon, Love you, benny...

Craig said...

Very moving Lizzie. I will be cheering for you again next year.

Maria Carolina Cao Perez said...

Te escribi en el blog pero no lo veo, anyway.... Gracias a Dios estas chevere, que esta tragedia que te toco vivir no se conviertio en una desgracia .... Gracias a Diego por haber posteado que estabas bien y nos evito angustias.... Love you !!!!

Erin Fernández Mommer said...

Estaba super preocupada por ti todo el hasta saber que no eras tu uno de los que...phew....

Maitane Azpiritxaga said...

Lizzie !! Estaba esperando tu historia... Era obvio que esta vez no podía estar llena de alegrías y sonrisas, lamento muchísimo que hayan pasado por esa situación tan horrorosa y más aún luego de esperar tanto para correr Boston !!! Gracias por hacerme llegar noticias a través de Diego, que casualidad conseguirte con mi querida Gina! Evidentemente obra de Dios y la Virgencita, no hacia sino pensar en ustedes 2 y rezar por tener noticias de las 3 pronto! Las venía siguiendo a detalle desde temprano y sabía que estaban justo por llegar en ese momento... Que angustia.
No dudo que en el 2014 correrás Boston con mucho más ilusión y fuerza, buscando honrar el sufrimiento y el dolor.
Te quiero muchísimo !!! Feliz de que tu y tu familia querida estén bien. Un abrazo gigante !!!!

Carolina Scharffenorth Machado said...

Que cosa más horrible! Supe por Ale que gracias a Dios estas bien y tu mama también, no entiendo como pueden suceder esta barbaridades. Sólo Dios sabrá , espero te encuentres fuerte,positiva y optimista como siempre, no es fácil vivir y superar algo tan doloroso e impresionante como esto. Cuídate, mil besos!

petraruns said...

My love - I tried to comment on this from my phone on Monday but it did not come through and it's taken me this long to get to you on my computer. Oh my - you were on my mind all that Monday - I was envisaging your glorious finish and of course when I heard the news it was you who I was worried for. So relieved to see Diego's update. I took your silence as a need for you to process what had happened but I tell you - Sunday morning in london, again, you were on my mind. I had SUCH a rough race - everything felt hard - but all I could think was that you had not been able to finish so that there was NO way i was pulling out. I am beyond relieved that you are well and your mother and daughter are as well. All my love, Petra