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Revisiting the Boston Marathon | Reporter's Notebook
Saturday night, I dropped my parents off at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. They would be boarding a plane to Boston to visit my sister Bonna.
This trip was a repeat of one they took a year ago in mid-April.
While the purpose of the trip was positive, there was a small sense of worry underlying it all.
That’s because my parents were once again going to see my sister run in the Boston Marathon.
After the bombings at last year’s marathon, I couldn’t help but be a little worried about all the “what ifs” that could have happened this year.
Fortunately, the event went off without a hitch.
I remember talking to my sister on the phone within a week following last year’s marathon and asking her if she would be running the race this year. She said she would and I was impressed because there was pretty much no hesitation in her response.
“I don’t think anyone who ran last year thought twice about whether or not they would be running it again after what happened,” she told me recently. “Once the initial confusion, frustration and sadness subsided, all I wanted was redemption.”
And apparently, she wasn’t the only one who felt this way. This year’s Boston Marathon brought out nearly 36,000 participants — one of the largest fields in the race’s history.
“(It) shows that no one and nothing is going to stop us from running and from finishing this race,” Bonna said about the large turnout. “It’s almost as if the result of the terrorist attack last year achieved the exact opposite of its original intent. The city and the country came together and is more determined and stronger than ever.”
My sister signed up for the marathon at her first opportunity and when she told me, I have to admit, I was pretty proud of my big sister for following through on her word. She wasn’t going to let last year’s events scare her away from participating.
“I think after what happened last year and all the extra security measures the city is taking, this is probably going to be the safest race ever,” she said.
Some of those extra security measures, she told me, included a clear-bag policy for runners and no bags at the starting line. Leading up to Marathon Monday, participants were also receiving constant updates from race officials on the increased security this year, my sister said.
For someone who went through a very long half hour of not knowing anything after learning about the bombings last year, I found it reassuring to hear how transparent race officials were being this year.
While this year’s race was about redemption for my sister, it was also about family. She said one of her biggest motivators last year was having our parents see her cross the finish line, but obviously that didn’t happen. The bombs went off and the race stopped when she was just around the corner from the finish line.
“Last year was also the first time my mom had visited Boston since I moved here and the events of last year left a dark cloud over the whole trip,” Bonna said. “So of course I knew I had to run it again and finish the race.”
For my sister, it was very important to be able to see our parents waiting for her at the finish line. And when that happened, it was extremely emotional.
“This year, the entire race was emotional. I kept stopping to walk because I was crying,” she told me after the race. “I stopped to look for Ma and Pa at the finish line and spotted them and broke down.”
When I heard this, I was happy for my sister to have had this moment, but it was also bittersweet for me because I wasn’t there to share it with the rest of my family.
Just hearing about the experience from my sister makes me want to be there with her.
“There is something special about this race. It’s the crowd. It’s this city. It’s the last stretch of the race down Boylston towards the finish line that makes it unforgettable and so emotional,” she said. “It keeps me coming back each year.”
And hopefully next year, I’ll be there with her.