Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Welcome Back" - 11 Months Later - Don't Stop Believing

I love a cappella and am getting stoked for 4/4/14 Greg Gordon's Boston Marathon Fund Raiser: Singing Boston Strong: An Evening of A Cappella to Benefit Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. As I sat down to write my blog on this, the 11 month anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, I put on All A Cappella on WERS and the song "Don't Stop Believing" came on air.

How perfect as we prepare for the one year anniversary of 4/15/13 and get ready for the Boston Marathon 2014.

I was feeling really anxious about returning to the Mandarin on Marathon Monday. I knew that I had to go back and visit before Marathon Monday. What better time to visit than on the 11 month anniversary. We were at the Mandarin, across the street from The Forum where the second bomb exploded. Here I am outside the Mandarin before we went up to join Spaulding in the 2nd floor suite on Marathon Monday.

On our ride to the Mandarin, along Beacon Street, we saw a group of runners, one of whom was sporting a Spaulding Rehab running shirt. We opened the windows and screamed to cheer them along. Tom honked the horn.

Today we parked near the finish line and took a photo:

We look forward to going back in a month to see the freshly painted finish line waiting to embrace all the runners who will cross it on 4/21/14.

When we walked into the Mandarin,

the woman standing behind the reception counter said, "Welcome Back."

I welled up with tears. I could feel a jittery feeling throughout my body.

We walked up the stairs where we had "walked" 5 years ago after 7 hours and 47 minutes out on the Boston Marathon course to be regaled by members of the Race for Rehab team, friends and family.

From my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility":
But nothing, nothing compared to that moment when we walked up the stairs or should I say hobbled up the stairs in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to be greeted by a round of applause and so much love from friends and family and the Spaulding Rehab Community.

David Storto, the President of Spaulding Rehab, said that I was a shining example of what Spaulding Rehab was all about. He asked me to give a speech. Damn, I had just run 26.2 miles and was out there for over 7 hours. This man wants me to give a speech? Part of me was absolutely delighted! It was an Oscar worthy moment in which I expressed my gratitude to Spaulding, to my therapists, to my friends gathered for their emotional and financial support. Our final fund raising total was $10,535! And because I ran the race in under 8 hours as a mobility impaired runner, I had actually qualified for the Boston Marathon. There was a problem with recording our times which I did not pursue since I was not planning on running the Boston Marathon again any time soon.

And those were the stairs where we walked to the Spaulding Rehab reception suite where time froze and lives were forever changed on 4/15/13.

The doors to the suite were locked but we were there; on the second floor where 11 months ago we and hundreds of others experienced terror. Tom and I tried to figure out where we stood while we waited for Greg to find his wife and son and keep his daughter and friend's son calm. I told him how everything looked so incredibly different to me. I remembered the scene so different from how it is today and we both had very different recollections of our evacuation but did both remember the door we exited to go outside. We looked outside to where people were hysterical and dazed and where we had to decide which way to go and what to do. Today, the scene was peaceful. The blue sky and sun was set against muddy patches on the ground. The trees seemed poised and ready for Spring to return to Boston.

We stood for a few moments breathing deeply and giving thanks for the staff at the Mandarin who calmly led us to safety.

We went downstairs to have lunch at the M Bar overlooking Boylston Street. We had amazing service and food and mentioned to our waiter that we had been at the Mandarin 11 months earlier. He had been riding his bike to work and was several blocks away when the explosions happened. He shared with us that he hadn't witnessed anything but when he got to work, they closed early. We thanked him for the outstanding service and food so grateful for life's simple and elegant pleasures.

As we were walking back to our car, a runner passed us who was obviously training for Boston. She was turning around just shy of the finish line and had stopped to catch her breath. "You training for Boston?" I asked her. "With a huge smile she said, "Uh huh. Just did 18 miles but gotta finish up this run. Doing a 20 miler today." I gave her a high five, told her she looked great and she went on her way.

So on this 11 month anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings I say
Don't stop believing
Don't stop believing in the goodness that is in the world.
Don't stop believing that we can heal and move forward after terrible tragedy.
Don't stop believing that we do run together and that while the bombs may have shattered glass and caused horrific damage, they only strengthened the tapestry of our individual Spirits and as our community as a whole.
Don't stop believing that all it takes is one spark of light to dispel darkness.

And in 36 days, 13 hours and some odd minutes according to the Marathon Sports countdown clock, we will say welcome back to the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, the oldest and most revered marathon in the country, perhaps the world.

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