Dozens of tiny lights circled Boston’s Chestnut Hill Reservoir. United in their resolve to continue on after the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings, runners from all over the city gathered together lighting the way through the night.
The day after the bombings, I traveled to Boston from St. Louis for a conference. I, along with the entire country, was mourning the loss of three innocent lives and injuries to over 170 others.
The victims could have been any of us or any of our family or friends. We all wanted to reach out to them and the people of Boston to show our support.
As I watched the local news coverage of the tragedy in my hotel on the Wednesday following the bombings, I discovered that local running store, Marathon Sports, had been decimated by the explosion.
The first bomb exploded just yards from their store on Bolyston Street near the finish line. The blast killed three people and caused horrendous injuries to those nearby. It shook the store, blowing out its windows. The store’s employees were some of the heroes of that horrible day – saving lives by pulling people to safety and giving first aid to injured victims.
Less than 53 hours after the bombings, Marathon Sports held a vigil and memorial run as a sign of unity and to start the healing process. With only a half an hour to get to the store, I quickly changed into my running clothes and ran the 2.5 miles from my hotel in Cambridge to the store on Beacon Street in Brookline. I needed to do something to show my support for the city of Boston.
When I arrived at the store, a group of about fifty runners had gathered inside. Runners and walkers from all over the city had come out to show their support.
Before heading out for the run, we gathered together for a moment of silence for the victims. As we started our journey to honor the victims, we were each given a small light that we would illuminate together when we reached the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.
Together, we swiftly ran into the ever-darkening night. As we passed by Beacon Street’s restaurants and shops, people applauded us. This small act of trying to move forward from Monday’s horrible events was not only important to the running community, but also to the people of Boston and the country.
The Sun had slowly descended over the horizon when we reached the reservoir. Only a glimmer of sunlight lighted our way. The small lights we carried and the spirit inside us, illuminated our way through the night. Circling the 1.5-mile path around the reservoir, the glow of fifty lights shimmered in the spring night.
As I ran, I thought about the victims who lost their lives; 8-year-old Martin Richard; 23-year-old Lingzi Lu; and 29-year-old Kristle Campbell, and where I was in my life when I was their ages. I thought about the experiences that they will never have because their lives were cut short. I thought about those who lost limbs, and those hospitalized, whose lives will never be the same again.
As we circled the reservoir, one by one, we laid our lights along the trail in remembrance of the bombing victims and their families. After a second pass around the path, we headed back to Marathon Sports to come together once more before we went our separate ways.
Back at the store, I introduced myself to the owner of Marathon Sports, Colin Peddie, and explained that I was from St. Louis and that my community and people all over of world were supporting Boston.
At around 8 p.m., I left the store and ran into the night back to my hotel. But I wasn’t alone. The restaurants and shops along Beacon Street were filled with people, trying to gain a sense of normalcy, by trying to live their lives as they did before the bombings.
After a few blocks, I came upon another runner, who like me, was determined to not let fear keep her from living her life. In a gesture of solidarity, we smiled and gave each other a “high-five” as we passed.
Although I was no longer physically carrying the light I had left at the reservoir, Boston’s spirit of unity lit my way home that night and will forever continue to.