Boston Scarred by Terror
Boston Scarred by Terror

Boston, Ma. — When the two bombs tore through the jubilant crowds lining the finish line of today’s 117th Boston Marathon it did more than halt the race in its tracks, leaving nearly 4500 runners between 40K and the finish unable to complete their Boston experience.  It turned the world on its head.

At 2:50 p.m. what had moments before been an ongoing celebration of the human spirit instantly transformed into a chaotic reflection of man’s darkest impulse. What had been moving testimony to the best in man became instead a shocking indictment against the evil that has festered in far too many hearts in far too many places for far too long a time.  Now the roll call of communities which share the sad distinction of being targets of terror includes Boston, the cradle of American freedom.  And, yes, it happened on Patriot’s Day at that, a day commemorating what it means for a community to come together and say to the world ‘for this we will fight’, ‘for this we will stand as one for all to see.’

This oldest most iconic of all marathons, what many call the People’s Olympics due to the difficult qualifying standards required to enter – standards that were tightened across all age groups this year by five minutes – is among the most celebrated sporting events in the world.  Historically, there have been more media requests for accreditation for the Boston Marathon than for any one-day sporting event outside the Super Bowl.  And though the world of media has changed drastically in the last decade, that statistic still gives ample evidence of the importance of this special event.  For someone or a group of people to attack such a pristine celebration of our common humanity is more than a tragedy, it is a sacrilege.

Runners from around the world and all 50 states took part in today’s race from the tiny town of Hopkinton to Boston’s bustling Back Bay, led by race winners Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Rita Jeptoo of Kenya.  Now those champions, for all their worthy excellence, and thousands more who followed them across the finish line, are no more than asterisks on a day such as April 15, 2013. The wonder that is Joan Benoit Samuelson, the former two-time Boston champion who celebrated the 30th anniversary of her 1983 2:22:43 world record by setting a 55 year-old age group world record (2:50:29), is a now a forgotten factoid rather than a magnificent reminder of the heights to which we can take the precious gift of life that at least two people lost in the smoke strewn aftermath of this unholy act.

But if any community can come back from such an unspeakable, obscene attack, it is the marathon community, whether here in Boston or next week in London, or in any of the other hundreds of cities which stage these celebrations of life, health, and human solidarity.  For as it has been said, once you don your race gear all that we don’t have in common, be it culture, religion, politics or financial station, all such distinctions are stripped away as the sport transcends any and all such differences to link us in our common humanity. That is the true beauty of the sport.

At its heart the marathon is a self-augering tool, digging deep to reveal the true character of a person.  The accomplishment of qualifying for then finishing the Boston Marathon cannot be bought or given, it can only be earned through unremitting months of dedicated preparation and racing will.

This violation of that spirit, in all its cowardly cynicism and wickedness, will leave its mark on the city and the marathon for all time, a brutish scar reminding us of man’s incivility, and our capacity to embrace hatred and fear as well as love and light. But it will not halt the spirit that drives millions of people from every culture to explore what it means to be human at its most basic level, and then to express that spirit in communion with one another.  Just as New York will once again celebrate its marathon after Hurricane Sandy, so, too, will Boston and its marathon live on after this.  Not just live, but endure and thrive.  That road will never end, that spirit will never succumb.



  1. Thank you for your comment on my Marathon post. I used to live in Beacon Hill and would watch at the finish line in the afternoon, when the laggards were limping their way to the end. It was absolutely surreal this year to watch the front runners in Newton, walk home, and then hear about the mayhem downtown. In those early hours, before we knew that no runners were injured, I kept worrying for the runners we’d cheered for, hoping they’d finished before the bombings.

    Next year, cheering on the runners will feel like a civic duty.

  2. Toni, I believe that there will be twice as many people that will want to run Boston next year, in tribute, in defiance, in honor, in majesty and humility. To acknowlege the best in life, to lift up to a greater level those whose lives were lost and were altered so shockingly. No amount of words can express it all, but there are so many emotions to feel. My heart so aches for the families of those hurt and killed.
    I do hope that we do not turn this act of hatefulness into more hatred and revenge. Yes, these people must be caught and brought to justice, but I for one cannot allow myself to desire “an eye for an eye”.
    What a tremendous response by the many first responders to help at the bombing sites. Humanity at its very best was showing that care for those hurt was overcoming fear. We can all be inspired by that bravery shown.

  3. your thought echo mine Tohi. Here is what i wrote and posted last night:

    The terrorist attack upon Boston, using the institution of the Boston Marathon as the opportunity to hurt and kill and instill fear, is utterly reprehensible. The world community, the sane world community, will condemn this in words, and the individuals or group of individuals, whether they execute another plan like this or not, will have likely achieved some of their goals. Making people think twice about attending large open sporting events, events that aren’t constantly policed at every entrance and exit, instilling that kernel of fear into a million brains at once, that’s one of their goals.

    And its worth repeating, since we’ve gotten so used to the word “terrorist” that we often forget to look at the root, terror, which is defined at “intense, sharp, overmastering fear.” Fear of what? Fear of boarding an airplane? Fear of getting on a subway platform? Fear of running a marathon? Fear of living your life? The answer is: all of the above. The terrorist is looking to take away that which you hold dear, for whatever perceived slight or abuse they have had to suffer.

    And that revenge includes killing 8 year olds.

    The running community has long been a hearty lot, and we react, irrationally, compulsively, to many things, but the overriding aspect is that we keep on going. We run in warzones, we run in inhospitable weather, we run through tragedies. And our community, if you pressed us, to a person, would most likely be to say that we love the freedom we have when we run. Any type of freedom of course, freedom from the job, from the kids, from the cell phone, freedom to run hard, to float, to pass as many others before the finish line. The freedom to enjoy whatever freedom we like. Running the marathon, a bucket list right of passage for so many, with the goal of qualifying for Boston, has been there for, literally, millions of runners the world over. But an event like this wants to cow us, and take that freedom away from us.

    But we are stronger than that. We deplore the senseless killings of innocents for a goal, any goal, and we will show that we are stronger than you. That our love of that freedom, that our love of something as silly as putting one foot in front of the other is so important to us that it is likely buried in our DNA, that we will not be stopped. That the marathon will not end, that we will not change our lives in fear of terror.

    These terrorists, whoever they are, will have gained nothing. Right now, there are dead to bury, and bodies to sew up and heal, and both mourning and a steeling of our spines to not give in to fear. The terrorists have showed us, like many other ways we are tested in this century, how strong we will have to be. The Boston has continued for over 100 years, from before the motor car into the atomic age and, now, into the age of domestic war. And we will continue to run, for as many reasons out there as steps taken, but mostly, likely, for those freedoms. We will run to be free.

    charles yoakum, Marin Running Company

  4. I have but one addendum to my earlier comments. We runners will run again. Americans will run again. But one thing we will NEVER DO is run away. Like a trapped rat the vermin scum responsible will be identified, isolated, and brought to justice. Whoever did this only stirred up the hornet’s nest.

  5. Thank you Toni. I am sitting transfixed by all I saw on the tv yesterday. Just when I was listening to an interview of Joanie, marveling about her accomplishment…gosh, she’s good…


    I was mesmerized by the images coming across the tv…smoke…orange…quiet…blood…hearing “They’re dead”…

    I was panic stricken…and I was 2 hours away from the finish line. The Boston Marathon was attacked by a heinous act of terrorism.

    What I am doing now is praying for the families, especially William Richard of Dorchester.

    1. Thanks for sharing Patti. We missed seeing all the Dillons this go round. Sad day indeed. But we shall overcome, for that Is the lesson if the sport itself.

      Love to all.

  6. I was at the finish area last year watching for several hours and because of the crowds, decided that being out on the course was better, so this year I was at mile 23. I had no idea what had happened until an hour or so after the fact. I am very disheartened and am questioning the future of big city marathons.

      1. I agree with you Toni, the show must go on otherwise terrorism wins. I was just questioning from a security standpoint, how future races can avoid a repeat of Monday. How do you police a 26 mile point to point course? Perhaps security checkpoints as one approaches the race course. We’ll see.

  7. Attacking the American Homeland will prove to be a fatal mistake. Boston, the Hub of Freedom on Patriots Day lifts this terror to another level. Words will not solve this problem.

    Bob Bright

  8. Thank you for this, Toni. You are much more emotionally invested than I am in the great American event that is the Boston Marathon and reading this was comforting to me.

    Today I feel sad, but I know that next year on Patriot’s Day, the BAA and 25,000+ runners will prove to the cowards that did this that whatever they try to do, we’ll just pick up the pieces and come back stronger.

  9. I have now re-read this several times since it was posted. Thanks once again Toni for your commentary and reporting. I couldn’t agree with you more “…so, too, will Boston and its marathon live on. Not just live, they will endure and thrive. The road will never end, the spirit will never die.”

  10. Thank-you for those words Toni. I always follow your coverage of the Marathon, having been a fan since your years in Cleveland Circle. My husband (BPD) has been there all night. My brother Willie and I are glad that you are safe. Elizabeth-former Sunshine Center doyenne.

  11. Tony many thanks for your eloquent testimony to this event, its spirit and this horrific outcome. All sportsmen join your condemnation and your call to conquer this devastation. rgds kevin lillis

  12. We cry. We scream. We wave our fists in the air as we call out “why? why?” We grieve to the depths of our souls. And tomorrow we will run again. We will not be unbroken. So happy to hear that you’re safe, Toni. I emailed Toya as soon as I heard, and was so relieved to learn from her that you were safe. To everyone I love in the running community, to everyone I love everywhere: “hold on to what gives you happiness, what gives you hope, and gather your strength to move forward tomorrow and all the days that follow.” We will preserver, we will run again, our lives will go on, meaning more than ever before.

    1. Thank you, Dagny. The mood in the Back Bay remains eerily Unsettled. Police are everywhere. One wonders what ‘normal’ might soon come to mean. Hope you are well.

  13. Partying at the Charlesmark will never be the same Toni. 30ish feet from me people lost their lives. Things won’t quite be the same. Innocence lost.

    In shock at it all.

    1. Beyond tragic. Nothing and no one is safe. There is no cure for hate but a long bout of love. Glad you are safe. I figured quickly that The Charlesmsrk was right where it happened. Love to all.

  14. Makes me think of Jason Kehoe in the days after September 11th. He was sure the next attack would be on Faneuil Hall – “What could be more symbolic than attacking the cradle of liberty?” he would say. I’m glad he wasn’t here to witness this travesty. So very senseless.

  15. Incredibly sad. A big part of the Marathon community today was the Massachusetts Track & Field Officials Association. Coverage shows many in those yellow jackets rushing in to help. I’m extremely proud to have been a member. Hoping all reading this are safe and sound.

  16. Recovery will happen. The New England spirit is rock solid. Prayers for all those harmed by this horrific act.

  17. While I worked at the 40k mark until 2:35pm, I was safely in Brookline at a gathering of friends when tragedy struck. The adults were all glued to the TV as the children played in the yard and were encouraged to do so. We will remember forever where we where when it happened. I’m sure as time transpires we will get a handle on the hows and the whys and I’m positive we will catch the culprits and bring them to justice. Its just sad on what seemed like a perfect marathon monday that evil can lurk in any corner. My heart goes out to all the victims and in a way we all are. But what we do next is what defines us as a nation. We will rise up and run again. I’m not scared. I’m damn mad. Mad as hell. Whatever point was to be made it could have done by peaceful means. A totally senseless tragedy. Thank you Toni for giving us the forum to vent and ultimately, to heal.

  18. Toni – I missed racing Boston today due to an injury. Little did I realize on the day that I got injured that I would later be thankful for this turn of events. But more importantly, I will be back next year, as I hope everyone else who isn’t so sure of that right now will be. Most importantly, my thoughts go out to those who lost their lives and were injured today, along with their families. They are the ones who have the toughest challenge ahead of them.

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