A reflection piece by staff contributor Dan Soleau
It’s been nearly 8 months since the first Marathon bomb exploded in front of our store. Whenever I see pictures of the store on Boylston Street – window shattered, benches toppled, sidewalk a mess – my heart jumps in my chest and my eyes tear up as if I’m seeing it for the first time.
Everything was restored and open for business 10 days later, but that image of the store – damaged and abandoned – still haunts me. I can’t look back on 2013 without seeing everything through the filter of shattered glass, bloody sidewalks, smoke, fire, and people wracked with grief and pain. As the year is wrapping up, the footage keeps resurfacing with every news outlet recapping the top stories of 2013. It doesn’t matter how many times I see it – I fight back tears and sadness every time they show the scenes of chaos from Marathon Monday.
There’s a certain amount of self-anesthetizing that happens in order to cope with trauma. I steel my nerves and bite my tongue whenever I overhear people talking casually about the bombings. I try to be as gracious as possible when confronted with questions about what happened that day. I put on an emotional Kevlar vest any time I turn on the news. It’s as if there’s a special switch in the brain that you train yourself to flip to the “off” position when confronted with reminders of everything that happened. One thing I’ve discovered is that the “off” switch is only “mostly off”; it’s not something you can escape from. I’ve spent the past 8 months trying to put as much distance between April 15th and the present. At some point within the past couple months I’ve decided that it’s not enough to try to escape 4/15/13. You can’t have an escape plan without a destination. So I’ve made my destination 4/21/14. I might be running away from one thing, but I’m running towards another.
The month after the Marathon was a heavy fog of sorrow. The bombings followed by the tragedy of West, TX, followed by the manhunt and lockdown of Boston followed by the tragedy of Moore, OK. It was too much to handle, to cope with, to process. I spent the weeks after the bombings glued to the TV, plugged in to every news website on the internet, robotically clicking the “refresh” button, stalking twitter feeds, obsessively combing over every conversation thread in Reddit. When all the redditors were speculating over the identity of the bombers, I was completely entrenched in a wholly unhealthy way. I trolled the internet for any and all news updates. I searched for every picture, image, and video so I could try to reconstruct what had happened. I was a man obsessed. My mind was drowning in the despair because it didn’t know how to deal with the damage.
It would be a lie to say that I look back at 2013 fondly. 2013 was a hard year. But despite the hard edges of 2013, the year was also full of some remarkable achievements.
Somehow – in the wake of the bombings – we were able to refocus our attention and open our newest store on the Cape. A little further along the calendar we had our annual 5 Mile race in Weston, MA. We won some awards. We wrapped up the year with our Frosty Five in Mansfield, MA. As more time passed, things seemed to start getting back to “normal”. It’s a new normal though. It’s a different mindset that is tinged with sadness.
I lost something when that first bomb exploded. I lost the part of me that is impulsively silly and joyful and happy – the part of me that would start singing along full volume to Fergie on my iPod while running around the Charles; the part of me that would make funny faces at the baby in the stroller while waiting in line at Starbucks; the part of me that would Parkour through the Public Garden. I lost the part of me that was blissfully ignorant of tragedy and terror experienced firsthand.
As we say goodbye to 2013, I feel as if I’m also saying goodbye to a version of me that I’ll never know again. I’ll never again experience being in a crowd of people and seeing black backpacks and wondering if maybe, just maybe one of those backpacks has a bomb in it… I’ll never be able to cross a finish line again and take for granted that every finish line is a celebration… I used to watch the news with concern and interest – distant concern as I saw the news stories unfold from the comfort of my couch. I would see images of tsunamis or tornados or war zones and think “Oh – how tragic, how sad”. Perspective changes with experience. I now watch the news with much more emotion, with a more visceral connection to the people affected by terror, violence and loss.
Even though I’m losing a version of myself, I do feel like I’m gaining something. Sad things are sadder and tragic things touch me more deeply, but all of my emotions are richer. Experiences are fuller. My family, friends, coworkers – I am much more aware of their support and love (though I still need to learn how to express my gratitude to them in a more regular and meaningful way). I’m more grateful for things I used to take for granted – health, love, life. I’m more reflective. I’m more amazed at humanity and examples of human kindness. I seek out and find beauty in everyday life. The wound is healing.
We look forward to 2014. A new year holds opportunity, promise, and potential. As we enter the New Year, Marathon Sports will be working on one of the most important initiatives we’ve ever been a part of. We will be managing the One Fund’s 2014 Boston Marathon Charity Team. We are honored to be a part of the initiative – it is important for us to support the One Fund, the victims, and provide whatever guidance and assistance we can to the charity runners. Reviewing the applications was a remarkable experience – the stories of how people were affected by the bombings and how they are inspired to run for the cause were poignant and inspiring. Every application I had the privilege of reading tore open my own healing wounds a tiny bit. Each essay was an exercise in fighting back tears so I could focus on the spirit, the commitment, and the personal story of each applicant. We look forward to celebrating the accomplishment and contribution of each of the charity runners on 4/21/14.
We welcome 2014. We are looking forward to the opportunity to continue improving our stores, the experiences we provide to customers, the programming we offer, the products we carry. We are looking forward to becoming more involved in each of the communities we’re located.
We will face 2014 with resolve. We will challenge ourselves to embrace the New Year with purpose, ever mindful of how we are supporting the running community. This will be a year of healing, inspiration, and hope.
We look forward to moving forward.