From a ‘beautiful day’ to ‘unspeakable sorrow’ – Steve Alexander at the Boston Marathon

(photo by Diane Montiel)

Our hearts ache for the bombing victims and their families.

We are sad for the great city of Boston and its citizens.  We have nothing but admiration for and gratitude to the Boston Police and marathon security who shepherded thousands of people out of harm’s way.  We are angry that some miscreant(s) hijacked a beautiful day of remarkable personal achievement.

And, we feel very lucky that we were on the “right” side of the street.

The above photo was taken by my wife, Diane, about an hour before the first bombing. The two store fronts on the left were blown out by the bomb. No doubt many of the faces you may be able to see — the people shown shoulder-to-shoulder and a dozen deep on the sidewalk trying to catch a glimpse of a family member or friend running by — were among the dead and wounded.  (That vantage is of special interest to the FBI, which has been on the phone this evening with Diane arranging for her to e-mail it and a couple of other photos.)

About thirty minutes before the bombings, we cheered Diane’s daughter, Katie Montiel Vidaillet, as she crossed the finish line, her fourth Boston Marathon, at 3:42.  I left to try to wade through the crowds to track down a client who was hosting a watch party down the street at the Forum restaurant.  I gave up because the sidewalks were so packed I could barely move. Outside the Forum is where the second bomb exploded.  Diane stayed to try to see a longtime friend from Denver cross the finish line. Diane was still sitting in the same spot on the front row of the bleachers when the bomb tore through the crowd just 60 feet across the street. As the thick, acrid smoke drifted across the street to the bleachers, Boston police were, as calmly as possible, directing Diane and hundreds of others down and out the back, hopefully to a safer place.  As Diane said later, they didn’t know if where they were headed was going to be safer, but at that moment it was better than where they were.

It took a very tense hour or so for Diane, Katie and me to find each other and our Boston friends amid the chaos.  Those were among the best hugs I’ve ever had.  The plan was for all of us gather for a post-race celebration at a restaurant on Newbury Street, obviously no longer a possibility, and we finally heard by phone that our other friends were safe and okay.  By that time, they had escaped the downtown area to a friend’s house several blocks away.  Diane, Katie and I were staying at hotels a block and a half from the finish and were under lockdown.

As are you, we are filled with unspeakable sorrow as we hear the ongoing reports about people who died and the life-altering severity of injuries.

And we also are grateful beyond words that we and everyone we knew escaped injury.

–Steve Alexander

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