My daughter, Sarah, ran in the Boston Marathon on Monday. She did not finish the race.Sarah, who graduated recently from Tufts University near Boston, was about three-quarters of a mile from the finish line when the first bomb went off. Fortunately, as it turns out, I was unable to find my way to the finish line in the confusion that existed even before the first bomb exploded. Race officials had much of the area cordoned off, and access to watching runners cross the finish line was very limited.
I was in Copley Square, around the corner from the explosion. Thousands of people walking in every direction, to and from the race. When the first bomb exploded, a man standing next to me said, “I think that was a sonic boom.”I said, “That was no sonic boom. It was a bomb.”With no military or demolition experience, I have no notion how I knew the worst had just happened. The sound was profound and otherworldly. It shook the buildings all around me. Then the second bomb went off a few seconds later, and race officials behind the barricades began to run. At that moment, I could think only of my daughter, of where she might be and if she was all right.I began asking anyone with a badge what had happened. No one had any answers. Within 30 seconds, sirens began to scream from every direction and race officials were yelling at everyone to clear the streets for police cars and ambulances. I still had no idea what had happened.
Copley Square is a huge open area in the hotel district of downtown Boston. It was entirely cordoned off to the public. This made finding my daughter even more difficult.
I finally found my way to buses where all runners must eventually return after the race to retrieve their bag of personal items. I had forgotten Sarah’s race number and texted my wife in Hawaii for it. Based on Sarah’s race number, I found her bus and located her bag,
This told me she had not finished the race and come here. It was not good news.
Still not understanding what was going on, feeling somewhat disoriented and aware of the increase in tension and volume of verbal commands being shouted in the area, I had no idea where to turn. A cameraman and reporter were near the buses. The newsman, microphone in hand, was talking into the camera. I listened as he mentioned bombs, blood, casualties and severed limbs in the area around the finish line, the place I expected Sarah to be when the bombs exploded.
I felt my soul leaving my body. I became nauseous and found a barricade to lean on so I would not fall and hurt myself. Slowly, I began to control my breathing and tell myself that reality was not the fear in my heart or my head. It was out there somewhere and that I should strive to discover it, especially the location and condition of Sarah. I struggled to move out of my imagination and into the real world. While this was difficult, I decided that I would simply envision reuniting with Sarah soon and hugging and kissing her when I did. That was the best I could do.
For the next hour and a half, I moved in several directions, asking police and firefighters if anyone knew where the runners at or near the finish line when the bomb went off were diverted.
No one had an answer.
By the time I had moved close to the finish line, I asked another police officer the same question. Once again, he said “no.” “You don’t?” I said, frustrated at the total lack of coordination or knowledge of the public officials.
Immediately, he got defensive, saying, “It’s not like something like this happens every day.”
“Relax,” I said, “I’m trying to find my daughter. She did not finish the race, and I can’t find her.”
“Don’t tell me to relax,” he said.
I turned and walked away. That short conversation was over.I went back to the buses and intercepted a few of the stragglers returning from the race. They were easily identifiable with their runner’s number and wrapped in mylar blankets. One told me that hundreds of runners were coming down Commonwealth Avenue. I rushed over there to see droves of mylar-blanketed runners walking slowly down the avenue. I looked into each face to see if one belonged to my daughter. It felt like looking at survivors of a concentration camp.Then I received a text from Mike, Sarah’s friend, telling me that he was also on Commonwealth Avenue about a half mile away, in a tree, looking for Sarah. After about 10 minutes of walking against this steady flow of runners, a text came in saying he had found Sarah.I immediately called. It took three attempts because phone systems were overburdened. I asked if Sarah was uninjured. Mike said “yes” and told me where they were. Once again, efforts to reach my daughter were blocked by police as the crime scene continued to broaden. I got five houses away from where they were and was stopped once again by a very agitated police officer. I called Mike and told him I could not meet them at their location. Mike told me we could meet at his apartment, about a mile away. I turned around and headed in the opposite direction toward his apartment. Sarah’s phone gave me its location, and I began crying out of pure relief.It was a good walk. My vision of hugging and kissing Sarah would become a reality after all.
Frank Lockwood is a resident of La Plata County.