I have never been to Boston. But I have been there. And I know first hand that it’s a living hell you never want to revisit.
I have been at my sister’s bedside, 48 hours after a bomb exploded at her feet. I have seen the layers of burnt skin. I have seen what happens when the nylon seams of a shirt melt into skin. I have seen what happens to flesh when it is hit by shrapnel. Years later there are still remnants of that bomb in her body.
I have seen my sister’s name in the newspaper under the list of blast victims, with the word “amputated” next to her name.
I have peeled away burnt skin to help relieve her of unbearable itch. I have watched white blood cell counts rise and fall and understood medications I never wanted to know about. I have celebrated victories that only those in the bomb victim world get to enjoy. Like when my sister escaped lung burn because she didn’t inhale enough of the noxious burning gasses to irrevocably damage her lungs. Boy did we party that day.
My sister suffered 70% burns to her body. She lost her left leg below the knee. Her right leg was so badly damaged that the doctors didn’t know if they could save it. She was 16 years old and a waitress at a pizza restaurant. She could have been standing at a marathon finish line.
On Monday, when those two bombs exploded in Boston, my two worlds collided.
Although I have run 7 marathons, I have never run Boston. But I have been there. Running through the finish line. With my husband and baby waiting for me. One year my friend Heather wading through the crowds to find me. And my last NYC Marathon, my Dad and friend Laura waiting near the end in Central Park. I have finished my races with joy, with pain, with sadness and with elation, but never with the fear that I know all too well.
I will never run again without thinking of Boston. Even though I have never been there, it will never leave me. This is too real and too familiar. Because I know the truth. That once the photos have faded from the newspaper headlines, and the coffers of donations have emptied, the victims of that bomb blast will never be able to rid themselves of that day. And although they will piece things back together – body parts and broken hearts – Boston will always be with them.
And it will always be with me.