Mark Albanese at Boston Marathon
by Mark Albanese
I made the trip to Boston with my parents, Mark and Aggie, and my sister Lisa. They ended up sitting about three blocks away from where the explosions took place while our hotel was right in the Copley Square area.
After the blasts it was really unnerving knowing that, had the bombing happened just a little bit earlier or in a slightly different location, it could have been me or one of my family members. I consider myself incredibly lucky.
I crossed the finish line at 1:12 p.m., completing the grueling up-and-down course in 3 hours and 10 minutes. I'm not sure how long it took me to slowly trudge through the long finish-line chute and back to my hotel but by the time I had finished showering, both bombs had been detonated. The blasts where later pegged at 2:50 p.m.
As I exited my room to meet my dad for a late lunch, a hotel staff member mentioned to me that two explosions had just occurred. I looked outside our 18th-story window and the streets nearby were filled with emergency vehicles and personnel. By the time I got down to the lobby, the entire area was swarming with heavily armed police officers. It was at that time it became readily apparent this was not an accident but a terrorist attack.
We attempted to cross the skywalk and into the adjacent mall to get some food but we were quickly told to return to the hotel as the mall was being shut down for security reasons. My dad and I returned to our hotel room and turned on the television and watched the events unfold with my mom and sister. Outgoing cell phone service had been shut down but luckily we were able to text and email people we were okay, especially after my sister's poorly timed facebook post about the marathon generated a good deal of concern about our safety from friends and family members.
Eventually we decided to leave the hotel in search of a restaurant still open to eat dinner. While exiting the hotel, a group of police officers passed with a pair of bomb-sniffing dogs, confirming that maybe this was the best time to leave the hotel. We luckily found a place to eat but the downtown, an area usually hopping after the race, was almost void of people outside, instead replaced with the flashing lights from the rows of emergency vehicles still parked in the streets.
Tuesday, it was a surreal experience seeing heavily armed police and the National Guard standing in the hotel lobby, holding assault rifles. Walking the downtown area, armed police and National Guard troops littered nearly every street corner as did media outlets from around the world. I never imagined I would ever walk an American city and witness that big of a military presence, it was a scene straight out of a movie
The actual race was a truly wonderful event that unfortunately later became overshadowed by a horrendous tragedy and act of cowardice. From the start line in Hopkinton all the way to Boylston Street the crowd was amazing. While the race officially provided hydration stations every mile most were completely unnecessary as local fans handed out water along the route, including many kids passing out free oranges and other items to keep your momentum moving forward, along with some much needed morale boosting high-fives.
All along the route you could tell the communities took a great deal of pride in the race with fans cheering on the local runners from Massachusetts and the runners from around the world with equal gusto, although the cheering was a bit more spirited if you had the foresight to wear a Larry Bird Celtics jersey (unfortunately I did not - there is always next time).
At the beginning of the 2013 race, the organizers held a moment of silence for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy in Connecticut. I would suspect a moment will be observed in 2014 for the victims of the recent attacks. It is my hope that in 2015 there won't be a new cause that needs remembering before the start of one of the greatest road races in the world.