Trigger Warning: my very personal, visceral experience of the Boston Marathon.

do you ever just stop and think of a memory and you suddenly feel everything that you felt that day?  This happens to me every time I remember the Boston Marathon Bombings.  It seems like a nightmare to me sometimes, like I never really experienced, just a figment of my imagination. Like I can’t be as whole as I am after an event like that but I am (fairly) whole.  When I think back to that day, I immediately feel my stomach drop out of my body, I almost gasp. I think back to standing at the fence and being excited, being ready to jump in and run with friends. I remember the first bomb— it sounded just like fireworks— and I remember the look on my best friends face as our eyes connected at the exact moment we realized those were not fireworks. I remember someone, maybe me, yelling RUN. I remember not even turning fully around before was slammed to the ground. And then I don’t remember much, my instincts kicked in. I know I got up and I know I jumped over the fence around the restaurant I was standing in front off. I know I dodged tables and I know I got stuck between a big round table and the wall. I know I climbed over it and I headed to the back of the restaurant.  I know I paced before wedged myself btw two corners of the wall and then finally heading to the kitchen.  I know I did all these things but I don’t remember making the decisions.  There were no decisions there was just do. It was autopilot, survival mode, fight or flight.

 Then the memories come flooding back as If I just took a nice big inhale and whooshed out an exhale. My heart rate quickens as I remember the woman standing across from me holding my hand saying
“we’re going to be okay, we are going to be okay.” I remember looking at her and having no words for her besides “yes”. I remember trying to call my best friend with no luck,  I remember the rush of relief when I see her name pop up on my screen. She’s alive. I remember talking no yelling into my phone and getting her location. Newbury Street on someone’s front porch. " I’ll be right there, don’t move.” “Ker be safe, what if another one goes off?”
I remember sneaking out the backdoor and shaking my head as I watch somebody light up a cigarette, their nerves shaking.  I got onto the crossway and looked up at the street sign, Newbury street and fairfield street. Cross the street, get as far from Bolyston as you can. Run. Just run. Yelling “Why are you running? What’s going on? Slow down!”  Thoughts flash through my mind as I remember grabbing my bag and running without caring.  Are these people kidding me? Do they not know what just happened?
Running, Running, I hear them before I see them.  Run straight into my best friends arm.  Both gushing. I think I’m saying ‘we’re okay, we’re okay” It’s become a mantra. My breath slows but my heart rate doesn’t.  I don’t have time to process the extent of what just happened. I take a look around and take note of who of our teammates are there. 5 of us. We came with 10. Shit. shit. shit. We are in charge we have to make sure everyone is okay.  Phone calls, text messages.  She’s bleeding? Where is she? stay where you are.
5 of us together.
1 girl found someone to give her a ride back
1 girl being taken to the hospital by a tufts alumni
1 girl with a police officer.
2 girls together with a parent
Okay, we’ve heard from everyone.
Someone in the midst of this chaos I remember calling my dad. Relieved that I could get through.  It was the 2nd phone call that actually went through since the bomb went off.  DAD, DAD, i’m okay. There’s a bombing and i’m okay.  “slow down ker, I don’t know what yo are talking about… oh shit.” I remember the sound in his voice as the news came up on his computer screen at his office, 4 hours away in NYC. Not panic, not fear, sheer, utter shock. "I have to go dad, tell mom. I don’t know what we are going to do but we have to get out of here” Stay away from the subways, walk along the water. Call me when you are safe. I love you.
I love you too. Breath out. Holy shit. keep it together. Someone has to keep it together.
Walk to the water. check. No subways. double check.  Long fellow bridge, holy shit this is a long fucking bridge. Running to find a teammate. Feels better to run, I’m doing something to help. She’s not here. Shit. Someone is giving her a ride to the hospital. Okay we have to keep moving.
By now, social media and the news has caught up.  Text messages coming in. text messages going out. Checking twitter.  A bomb in the sewer system, a manhole cover blew.  Collectively our eyes veer to the manhole cover, steaming air coming out of it.  Deep breath. Keep moving.
The longest walk but we make it to Harvard. Collapse into the grass of one of the courtyards.  Another teammate coming to pick us up. Are we safe yet?  Being dropped off at good old 12 Connwell. Open up the door. There they are, my three roommates, “ wow they look like hell”. Oh right, they had no idea if we were alive let alone relatively uninjured.  I collapse into a chair. Am I safe yet? No, I don’t think I am.
As I sit here, reliving this. IT’s as if I’m there again.  My body on high alert, my mind trying to keep calm, trying to hold it together. It’s one of the few memories of my life that when I remember it. I relive it, body and mind.  It’s one of those memories where I feel it all over again, deep into the inner workings of my soul.
Yet, here I am (pretty much) whole, living, breathing and trying to better myself everyday.  Here I am, yeah I have long lasting affects, the wear and tear of a traumatic event — anxiety, doubt, some fear, uncertainty, cynicism — but here I am putting one foot in from of the other and trying my damned hardest not to let fear dictate where I’m going next.
I can only hope that for each and every person I meet-- That you don't let fear tell you where you are going next, that you don't let selfish actions of others stop you from your dreams.  That you spend every day putting one foot in from of the other and show everyone how strong you are.
The people of Boston shiner brighter then ever and inspires me everyday especially on Marathon Monday.  This city has proved over and over how resilient and tough it's citizen's are. I am so proud of every single runner that passes that finish line on Monday. I will be with you in heart and spirit and wish you all the best
Boston Strong.
Jumbo Strong.