A lifetime’s worth of tragedy in the span of 20 minutes

Accompanied by cooler temperatures, race day started with promise and enthusiasm. The starting line was abuzz with talk of PR’s and possible personal Boston bests. A trend of new PR’s was also evidenced by the too-many-to-count runners who scanned their wristwatches while covering the last five miles. I crossed the finish line at 2:45 pm with a face smiling and a 3:57:33 time.

Taking a picture with my wife next to the medical tent is a tradition unlike any other in my family. Joy, love, sweat, and then “BANG!” Only five minutes after the finish, the heaven turned to hell. “Maybe a cannon,” I first thought…but I know I would have noticed one next to the finish line, and I thought the sound was odd. No, this was bad. The second “BOOM” confirmed bad had gone to worse.

Within a few minutes we saw a flurry of activity become a parade of wheelchairs driven by the first responders towards the medical tent. The crowd in the finish chute was frozen in place, paralyzed both by finish fatigue and their eye popping amazement at the billowing smoke. We saw what we would not want others to see. The stuff we would hide from our children’s eyes in a bad movie. Ground Zero had come to Boston. Our home. Our race.

Impressed I was with the calmness of the BAA volunteers, police and runners. Instructions were clear, “Please keep moving away from the finish line, please.” Can you believe I heard “Please”? The police calmly stated another bomb might be located nearby, so “PLEASE keep moving.” So much concern for our safety made our compliance easy. After finding our way into our nearby hotel, I was stunned to learn only 20 minutes had elapsed since the blasts. A lifetime of tragedy lasting only 20 minutes. Odd how time slows down so much…

A medal earned? A finish time treasured? No. Just sadness.

Brian Carroll
Worchester, Massachusetts
April 15, 2013
Age – 50
Bib # 24429