Growing up in Boston, I have always loved Patriots' Day because it's another holiday to take off. No school, no work, an early Red Sox game and, of course, the Boston Marathon.
Until this year, I had never had the opportunity to actually watch a marathon in person. A buddy of mine called me to ask if I wanted to help him run the hospitality suite and escort the early finishers to the medical and hospitality tents. I said sure.
For the first time, I got to watch the sheer exhaustion and overwhelming jubilation that goes with finishing that hilly, bumpy, 26-mile journey. There was lots of smiling, crying and hugging. In a word, it was awesome.
I've never been happier for a group of people that I had never met before. I'd even driven up "Heartbreak Hill" and gotten tired, so I could only imagine running over it.
One young lady from Spain tried to describe the experience to me as I brought her to the tent. Between her broken English and my awful Spanglish, we couldn't help but laugh. Needless to say, a great time was had by all.
And then it hit. And then a second one.
They were calling them "trash bombs." The stands were destroyed, children were crying, blood was everywhere. I and the others in my volunteer group were ushered back to the hotel with no further details. But the rumors came soon after: Several amputations. One of the deceased was an eight-year-old.
A doctor I'd seen running toward the blast instead of away from it—like many of the brave medics, police officers and volunteers—came up to the suite. He was still in shock as he described having to use lanyards to stop the bleeding of some victims and the sight of limbs scattered near the finish line— really gruesome and scary stuff.
Then the cell phones stopped working, and people were trying not to panic.
And then came the rumor that there was a bomb in the hotel I was in. I still can't confirm if this was true or not—stories keep changing. The President, Massachusetts governor and Boston mayor have all spoken about the tragedy. Anderson Cooper flew into town.
Twitter updates and Facebook messages came. Over 100 injured, now including a two-year-old. A cousin of a good friend of mine lost both of his legs.
Hours later, I'm sitting in a suite looking out the window, locked down in the Fairmont Copley Hotel with a bunch of shell-shocked volunteers and runners. We're trying to answer the basic questions: Who would do this? Why would they do this? What was the goal?
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the injured. If you would like to donate blood to help those in need, this would be as great a time as any.
I'll be back next year. Boston is a strong town.