Anyone who has spent any time living in or around Boston can tell you how special Patriots' Day is. No school + Sox baseball at 11 am + Boston Marathon = a great time for an over the top sports fan like me.
I grew up in Framingham, which is the 6 mile mark for the 26.2 mile run from tiny Hopkington to downtown Boston. Part of the magic of the Boston Marathon is that all the small towns along the marathon route go all out to welcome the runners. It's not just big crowds at the start and finish and fans scattered along the way. Boston is different.
27,000 runners. 27,000 stories. Jeff Glassbrenner of Little Rock lost one of his legs in a farm accident when he was 8 years old. Jeff is now one of the world's most accomplished physically-impaired athletes. Jeff ran Boston yesterday.
If you're a big time runner, Boston is a must. It's the world's most prestigious road race.
This year, I pushed back my winter trip to visit my mom to April to watch one of my nieces run her first marathon. Laura Sullivan is a young nurse who works the overnight shift in Washington, D.C.
Nurse Laura caught the running bug from her dad. When she's not working or running, she finds time to work the hotline for "The Samaritans," a non-profit group that is dedicated to reducing the incidence of suicide. One of Laura's cousins took his life. Yesterday, Laura was running for Kenny.
Team Sullivan was stationed in Framingham. We watched thousands of runners go by before Laura arrived. The picture attached to this story is Laura as we saw her at the 6 mile point. She looked strong and happy, ready to attack the last 20 miles. Nothing could prepare her or anyone else for what would happen three hours later.
My marathon experience ended there. While my brother and his family headed for the finish line, I made my way to the airport. As I got closer to the airport, Laura closed in on the finish line. Then I got this horrifying series of texts from my brother. "We are alright. 2 bombs went off right across from us. My ears are still ringing." He said he was about 75 feet away from the first explosion. No family should have to go through what they went through yesterday.
They were the lucky ones. My brother and his family avoided injury. A friend gave them grandstand passes. If they didn't have those passes, they would have been standing on that sidewalk where the bomb went off, waiting for Laura to finish.
The death toll from the twin bombings stands at three. At least 170 people -- 10 children -- were injured in the attack, according to the latest CNN count. At least 17 people are in critical condition.
Among those dead is an 8-year-old boy who was with his family near the finish line.
I've been thinking a lot about that 8-year-old boy. His name was Martin Richard. He was there to celebrate his father's finish, just like my brother was there to celebrate with his daughter. Only a truly evil person could destroy something so pure. Whoever orchestrated this despicable act may have scored a small, sickening victory on Patriots' Day. But I really feel that this terrible tragedy will bring all of us closer together...I can already feel it happening.
Laura didn't get to complete the race. Less than a mile from the finish line a cop stopped her and told her to head the other way. It must have been surreal. Laura's Boston Marathon ending with her running away from the finish line; running away from the bombs and the chaos.
Next year, Laura plans to go the full 26.2 miles for the first time here in Little Rock. I know that as she crosses the finish line and soaks in the sounds of the crowd, she'll be reminded that there are far more good people in this world than bad.
I can't wait to cheer her on!
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