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We are a broken people
April 16, 2013 - John Stack
Yesterday was the 117th running of the Boston marathon. As a runner, I like to keep tabs on locals in big races like Boston. Some I know well, some I’ve only met a couple times at races and the like. This year, I knew more than usual. Billy Whitney and Darci LaFave of Lake Placid, Mary Duprey of Champlain, Joe Sullivan of Albany (and a Cheap Bastard mini-tri member like Billy and me) and a hometown friend, Mike Abdallah of Mohawk NY. I cheered on pros Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher, two American women who finished 4th and 6th. Seeing the times of these guys was fun. Mike and Joe around 3 hours. Darci and Mary breaking 4 hours. But Billy didn’t finish. And we all know why.
Billy is not in the same echelon as the other guys. Billy was running because of his fundraising work for the American Liver Foundation, not because he had a fast qualifying time. He was still out on the course when the bombs went off. (He and the others tell their story on a related ADE article). He ran another few miles until mile 25 when they finally told the runners the race was over. When I read Billy’s Facebook post, he said it took almost 3 hours to find out his girlfriend Darci was OK. He knew she finished around the time the bombs went off (she finished just before). The wait must have been agonizing.
Sometimes it’s “not your time”. Mike ran his best time in 15 years, a 3:05 at age 52. He has no idea how. He expected a time of 3:20 or 3:30 which he feels would have left him wandering around the blast site had he run slower. Heard of gym rats? Mike is a running rat. Last time I saw him as a class reunion years ago with his wife, he told me how he would find out about some marathon on a Thursday and drive all night half way across the country to run some Podunk Marathon on the weekend. Mike, like Joe had the same thought after later reflecting. They will both be back next year. To not run would be to let the cowards win. I guess it wasn’t Mike’s time.
Have you seen some of the photos? One is of a guy in a cowboy hat helping a guy in a wheelchair. Look closer. The guy had half his leg blown off and is completely dazed. The guy in the hat is Carlos Arredondo. Originally from Costa Rica, Arredondo had been at the race to support a group running for fallen veterans, one of them his son who was killed in Iraq in 2004. Another son committed suicide just over a year ago. He was there to lend support to others who had lived through the tragedy of losing a child in war. Now he was in the middle of a war zone himself. Carlos didn’t run from the blast. He (like many many other heroes) ran towards the explosion. In the picture he is telling this wounded guy ‘stay with me, stay with me’. As he recounted the story, he wasn’t acting like a hero; he was shaking, sometimes violently. He never meant to be a hero, never planned on it. There was a report of a father who brought his kids to the ground and lay over top of them, and a bystander got on top of them, telling them to ‘Stay down! Stay down!’ . By the way, Carlos isn’t just ‘helping’. He is helping to pinch closed a severed artery in this guy’s leg. The cropped photo luckily does not show the gruesome details (which you can find unedited on other sites).
Would you have covered them up and risked your life? Would you have run back into the fray? No one who ran away was a coward. The cowards were those that perpetrated this attack. Those that ran back into danger, they are a special breed. In his interview, Carlos said ‘we are a broken people’. I say NO. Because of people like Carlos Arredondo, and guys like Mike and Joe who plan on returning next year in spite of and because of the tragedy, we will NOT be broken.
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