By Ezra Dunkle-Polier
Words cannot express the heartache that the Boston community feels for the innocent victims of the terrible explosions at the end of the 117th running of the Boston Marathon last Monday.
As a participant, though I will never forget the smell of the gunpowder moving down Beacon Street or the disappointment of coming within half of a mile from the finish, what I remember most is the support of my fellow runners, teammates and Bostonians.
All of the runners came together as the news of the explosions at the finish spread down Boylston Street. I can vividly remember their hugs and kind words as all of us waited on the status of our loved ones at the finish. Some of us decided the only thing to do was to keep going, keep trying to reach the goal that we had trained so many months for.
Eventually, though, it was clear that the race was over. When you have no physical reserves left, emotions can run rampant. The only thing I can think about is the deafening silence throughout the group of disappointed and saddened runners. With it came a silent understanding, though, both of the gravity of the situation and of our accomplishments.
Needless to say, the Tufts Marathon Team came together in an indescribably powerful way. While we had formed unbreakable bonds at our weekly training runs and interval sessions, the tragedy brought us even closer together. In an expression of solidarity as a team and of defiance against fear, our coach decided not to cancel our planned team reception.
Even though it did not have its anticipated jovial atmosphere, the time for runners, volunteers and coaches to connect and share stories was an invaluable chance to continue the healing process. The Tufts University community echoed this sentiment. Never before have I experienced complete strangers offering their unconditional condolences or a muted “congratulations.” At a time when being surrounded by thousands of college students can make someone feel confined an alone, I have never felt more connected to a space and a community.
I generally expected to be comforted by other runners and my teammates, but never imagined the wonderful support of Bostonians and people all over the country. Everywhere I looked after the race, I saw random strangers giving runners jackets, blankets, or cell phones to contact their family members. The Boston Police Department acted with the utmost professionalism and tact in the face of heart-wrenching terror, taking careful time to explain the situation to runners and spectators.
One man, whose name I will never know, walked countless blocks out of his way just to point me in the direction of my family. As one student voiced in an interfaith vigil on the Tufts campus Monday night, the explosions Monday afternoon sought to tear us apart, but instead we are all Bostonians now.
The hardest aspect of that day for me to reconcile was whether I truly finished the race. All of my friends, family and supporters keep saying that it was not my fault, that the police forced the race diversion. Though I am confident I would have reached 26.2 had the explosions not occurred, no amount of praise can replace the disappointment. That being said, not being allowed to finish this year only adds to my motivation to return next year and celebrate in Copley Square.
Living in the 9/11 generation, we are sadly accustomed to attacks like this, though still rarely on American soil. In times of trauma, crisis, confusion and instability, however, we show our resilience and defiance over forces who seek to throw us off balance. We come together instead of breaking apart. We keep on running. The only way to not let whoever committed this horrific act win is to keep on living incredible lives, one foot in front of the other.
Ezra Dunkle-Polier, a Durham native, is a senior at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.