I clearly remember the excitement I felt some thirty-plus years ago on a cold, drizzly April afternoon. But I can't tell you who won the Boston Marathon, nor can I recall anything unusual about that particular day -- the first time I was enmeshed in the crowd gathered along the infamous Heartbreak Hill in Newton.
Then, I became jaded. No longer the fresh-faced college freshman, I was now the suburban mom living just miles from where I first watched the Marathon. I took my two young daughters to watch the race so they could have Marathon memories that reached further back than my own. Sometimes we'd go to watch with another mom and her kids; later on, the kids went off on their own. The years passed by like the runners themselves -- some swiftly, some just kind of chugging along. Marathon Mondays came and went -- until 2013, the Marathon many of us will never forget.
A year has passed since two bombs exploded near the Marathon finish line in Boston's Copley Square, tearing into a time-honored tradition as well as a collective sense of safety. Those bombs claimed the lives of three innocent people and injured more than 250 others. An MIT police officer was killed in the aftermath of the chaos wreaked by alleged bombing suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The ripple effect of the destruction irrevocably altered countless lives. Yet, while the city of Boston, and no doubt, the entire nation, may have been brought to its knees, the terror inflicted upon it sparked a spirit of defiance and compassion. "Boston Strong" and "B Strong" became rallying cries, emblazoned on t-shirts and bumper stickers everywhere you looked. I have to admit, it didn't take long before the slogans started to ring a little hollow for me. I kept wondering about the cries of all the victims -- their parents, partners, siblings -- who were trying to heal from devastating physical and emotional wounds. How strong can you truly be in the darkest of nights?
There's a saying in Nichiren Buddhism that "Winter Always Turns to Spring." After this brutally cold, long winter, as the first anniversary of the Marathon Bombings drew near, there was evidence of the truth in that saying. In various tributes to the survivors, I heard many of those who were wounded tell their stories, stories of steps large and small taken, each miraculous in its own way. I saw hints of a smile on a mother's face that a year ago must have been awash in more tears than anyone should have to shed in a lifetime. And though he was speaking on TV, I could viscerally feel the love that one survivor said he had felt from so many this past year.
On this beautiful spring day, I'm sure everyone -- from those who ran the Marathon -- to those who stood along the 26 mile route to cheer them on -- felt these heroes' strength themselves. Boston Strong indeed.