Boston Marathon: the helpers

It was a nice day here in the Boston suburbs. It wasn’t quite as lovely as a certain memorable day in September, but it was warm and clear after a cold and cloudy winter. Today is a Massachusetts holiday – celebrated only in a small area around the Hub. We call it Patriot’s Day, and it starts before dawn with battle reenactments in Concord and Lexington. It moves from that to the earliest baseball game in Major League Baseball, with the first pitch thrown at about 11 am. The game is supposed to let out just in time for the spectators to watch the racers from the Boston Marathon cross the finish line. It’s a day of revelry in Boston.

I didn’t have today off, sadly. My husband took the boys to a museum far away from the Boston crowds, since both school and daycare were closed. I had started work a little early (and worked a little late) so I could go volunteer to play taps for a WWII Navy vet. As the sun was at the zenith, with forsythia and narcissus early harbingers of spring to the Wildwood Cemetery, I traded off with a bagpiper as we laid a brave lady to rest. I watched her family’s face as the strains of Amazing Grace wound away and the piper turned his back, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being a bit weepy myself.

After the last note was sounded, I was home in time to catch the 9th inning of the game. It was a great game today, with a walk off wall-ball double in the bottom of the 9th. I was deep into functional specifications when a one-liner came across Twitter, “US media report two explosions near finish line of Boston Marathon”. It was right after the tweet of a friend whose ultrasound was not showing good news, and right before a notification that Deadliest Catch starts tomorrow.

In this inured age, such early reports often tend to be not that big a deal after all. A firecracker. A backfire. A prank on social media. But this one, with a sick feeling, grew across the feeds. There were pictures. Videos of scenes that were definitely not backfires. Images that had not been approved for general viewing of a national tv audience. I was heartsick. And then I remembered. One of my Sunday School kids (not a kid anymore, of course) was there, working as an EMT. She posted this picture this morning:

Back when it was exciting instead of ominous
Back when it was exciting instead of ominous

I posted hoping to hear back from her. It was a very long hour before she found time to respond to anyone that she was ok, but very very busy.

On a bright, sunny, sorrowful day a lot of folks have reached back to the wise words of Mr. Rogers, advising us to look for the helpers. Before I knew she was ok, I thought that if my friend – who babysits my kids, to whom I taught confirmation and Sunday School classes – was there, it was to the advantage of the world. I know her, and she is one of the helpers. I have yet to hear her story of the day, but I have no doubt she was – is still, probably – helping the hurt, treating the injured, calming the scared and lost, comforting the afflicted.

I have other friends there too – a law enforcement official who won’t be coming home tonight because he’ll be working on finding any unexploded ordinance, on catching the bad guys, on keeping us safe. There’s the fellow mom whose hospital was in a lock down, and who spent tonight a long way away from her kids, taking care of the very sick in a fearsome atmosphere. When you look at the race grounds for those helpers, you will find my friends standing there.

I am so very proud, and so very grateful, for those who help on a dark Patriot’s Day. Thank you, my friends.

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