Bruce Benke, a 36-year-old runner from Westport, Conn., had already finished running the Boston Marathon on Monday when yet another explosion rocked the world we all live in.
Right away, Benke knew it wasn’t good, it wasn’t right. Races might begin with the bang of a starter’s pistol, but it never, ever ends with an explosion tearing limbs off bodies, ending lives in a flash and changing everything — again.
Benke had been a Marine and his sixth sense kicked in almost immediately.
“(My wife) thought it was like a water (main) break, or gas main,” Benke told The Hour newspaper on Monday afternoon. “I said, ‘No, that was a blast. We need to take cover and get out of the streets. This is bad.”
Without missing a beat, he delivered the unintended punch line.
“So we headed to a bar and we hunkered down there.”
I can’t blame him. As of three o’clock on Monday, I felt like I needed a drink, as well.
It was while channeling surfing that I flicked upon CNN and immediately froze. Two explosions had occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Our Boston Marathon.
My Boston Marathon.
My relationship with the 26.2-mile Hopkinton-to-Boston race dates back to the late 1970s, when an American named Bill Rodgers won three straight races, thereby cementing his role as a running legend in the eyes of millions. Soon after came a man named Alberto Salazar, who became the first man to run under a 2:09.
Joan Benoit-Samuelson, from right down the road in Freeport, won the Boston Marathon twice, once in world record time, and all I could think about back then was running stride-for-stride with her at Benjamin’s 10K in Bangor during that same time period. (Yes, she later pulled away from me down the stretch).
Right around that same time, 31 years ago, I was in the midst of my own running career. Granted it was a lifetime ago, not to mention 100 pounds or so, but me and my friends — whose teen-age goals had consisted mostly of getting a little something-something from our girlfriends — had actually openly talked about, dreamed about, running Boston someday.
Sadly, that day never came, but the marathon rarely if ever wavered from my consciousness.
One year, right around the turn of the century, I even covered the Boston Marathon for the newspaper I was working for, planting myself at The Tunnel of Love — the all-women Wellesley College, which comes out in droves to support the runners, making it one of the loudest and most memorable places along the course.
On Monday, all those happy memories were buried underneath the rubble of the aftermath of the bombing that took place at the finish line of this year’s marathon.
I couldn’t speak. I immediately thought the worst. Like the rest of us, I’ve been waiting for the answers ever since.
In the meantime, I’m just angry. No, that doesn’t do it justice. I’m genuinely pissed off.
Terrorism found its way into my country on Sept. 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers came down.
Now, it has found its way into my world — the world of sports — and I am so fucking angry.
An eight-year-old boy lost his life just moments after hugging his father at the finish line. Just like that, his life was taken from him — taken from all of us, really, because who knows how many lives he would have touched had he been allowed to grow up. Never again will he look up to the runners who brave the challenge of pushing themselves over a 26-foot mile foot race, be it the Kenyans who do it in such a ridiculous time that it’s almost absurd, or to his own father who accepted the challenge himself and the completed the course, getting not just a medal, but more importantly one last hug from the little boy who certainly thought of his dad as a hero.
Yet tragedy refused to settle for taking a little boy’s life. His sister has reportedly lost a leg. His mother suffered a head injury. A family left to grieve and heal and ask questions that will never be answered.
At least two others are dead, a number that could still rise. More than 140 remain injured, forever scarred by the act of something few of us can comprehend.
In the aftermath of it all — after the blood has dried, after the ringing in our ears has stopped, after the tears in our eyes have dried up — so many people are stepping up through social media, posting and Tweeting such offerings as “Pray for Boston” or “Thinking of the people in Boston” or asking the never-to-be-answered questions “Why?”
I know people mean well, but what’s bothering me more than anything right now is while this incident occurred in a two block area of the city — a long a street that I have walked upon perhaps a dozen a times over my life — it is just a microcosm of everything that is wrong in our world. This time, it’s just being played out on a major stage.
But this is just another chapter in the story of what is wrong with life in the 21st century.
We have an insane punk kid given power because of his family in North Korea threatening us with nuclear weapons. We have a mentally disabled person in Newtown killing our children just because he wanted to. We have people shooting our politicians in Arizona, our movie goers in Colorado, and on the streets of our big cities and small towns every day because together we have created such a violent society. And our leaders can do nothing about it because they’re busy fighting with each other.
Pray for Boston, if you must, if it makes you feel better.
But please think of the bigger picture. If an eight -year-old boy can die after giving his father a hug at an event like the Boston Marathon, then once again this type of story can happen anywhere.
After all, this is the world we have created.