2013 Boston Marathon | The Memories We Choose
In the weeks that followed, Arredondo and Bauman became two of the enduring symbols of a moment when the lives of strangers fused together. In late May, as Bauman, who lost both his legs, continued the long process of recovery, Arredondo stood beside him at Fenway Park while thousands cheered for them, and for themselves, perhaps. Cheering because none of us knows when a storm not of our making may engulf us, and when we may need our own Carlos, who says, It’s going to be okay, hang on, hang on. And here was Jeff Bauman to tell us that he had.
Here is another memory to hold close: In the first hours after the blasts, more than 8,000 people in Boston and surrounding towns took to social media and offered their homes and apartments to any of the 27,000 runners who needed shelter, food, a friend. A typical message read: “Please come to Brookline if you need to feel safe. I’m 2 miles from Copley, but you are welcome in my home.” Another: “I live in Hopkinton but would happily drive anywhere to pick up a runner who needs food, shelter and comfort.”
Ali Hatfield, a runner from Kansas City, Missouri, posted an Instagram photo of the food, drink, and comfort she’d been given at the home of someone she’d never known. “There is love in this world,” she wrote. “A sweet woman opened her home to us and gave us food, shelter and beer! … Our hotel is locked down. We can’t get over there. So scary. Praying.”
And at a time when so many were still struggling to make financial ends meet, $61 million in donations poured into The One Fund to help the injured and the families of those who had died; more millions were raised in separate social-media efforts. It was as though America’s heart beat for Boston.
Here is another memory: So many runners and Bostonians made their way to blood-donation stations that soon the American Red Cross tweeted that it had enough: 500 units of blood were on their way to local hospitals, where doctors, nurses, and technicians pushed aside fatigue and found the composure to match their expertise. “There’s stress,” said Dr. Ron Medzon, an emergency-room physician at Boston Medical Center. “You really want to do the best for every person. I got my patient stabilized and just started running from patient to patient to make sure that everyone else was also getting the attention they needed. And every single patient had at least two or three super-competent, compassionate people working on them. Every single person had a limb-threatening injury, a life-threatening injury. And I think 20 people came in over 40 minutes, which is just incredible.”
Nearly 40 injured victims were rushed to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the first hour—and all survived. Dr. Peter Fagenholz, a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) trauma surgeon, worked 35 hours straight. He had come on at 7:00 a.m. and performed six operations before the bombing, then scrubbed in on at least four surgeries, perhaps as many as six or seven, after it, working on the injured throughout the night; he finally left the hospital the following day at 6 p.m. An off-duty trauma surgeon, David King, also at MGH, had completed the marathon and was heading home when the explosions went off. Though physically spent from the race, he went straight to the hospital and went to work saving lives.
April 15 also showed us that the American Red Cross volunteers don’t simply appear like miraculous angels when things go terribly awry in far-off places. This was here, on Boylston Street, where nearly everyone who knows Boston has strolled. And this is who they are: In the days following the explosions, they served 47,247 meals and snacks to first responders, residents, and families; they arranged 3,644 mental-health contacts in the days that came after; they were on hand at 78 memorials, vigils, and gatherings for support and aid. Red Cross volunteers made certain that nobody had to feel abandoned or alone in Boston.
There were so many moments of courage and extraordinary kindness amid the noise and sirens that we can also choose to remember the quiet acts, the ones that happen when nobody’s looking. Think of Jessica Kensky, a nurse at MGH. She was newly married, and in a flash both she and her husband were wounded badly, each losing a leg. Coworkers—fellow nurses, cafeteria staffers, maintenance people—donated 7,000 of their time-off hours to Kensky—three and a half years’ worth. Because of that, Kensky has time to recover, to adapt to a life so suddenly changed, while remaining secure as a full-time employee with health-care benefits.
And here is one final memory, still to come. This year, on April 21, whether the day is warm or chilly, sun-splashed or gray, some 36,000 runners will await the call to begin in Hopkinton, finishing 26 miles distant in Copley Square. There will be a sea of athletes: young, old, men, women, able-bodied, in wheelchairs. A year earlier, many were forced to turn away before the finish. They’ve put in thousands of miles training to do what they love: to run in this beautiful city on a spring day, with tens of thousands of supporters pressed close on the streets, shouting for them to keep going. And as the miles go by, as they stream through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, and Wellesley, turning into Kenmore Square and down Commonwealth Avenue into the heart of the city, they will hear the shouts that will always be the true legacy of the Boston Marathon, the same as it always has been: Keep going, keep going.
Read Yankee vice president JD Hale’s personal account of the Marathon bombing.