Tragedy at Boston Marathon
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Apr 16, 2013 | 1403 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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There were nine runners from Chattanooga entered in the Boston Marathon, but at least one entrant remained home. There were none from Cleveland entered in the race, but Lee University President Dr. Paul and Darlia Conn were there Monday to watch — not to run, just to watch like thousands of other spectators watching 27,000 more running the race.

According to reports, no one from Cleveland nor Chattanooga was injured in the bombings near the finish line.

Associated Press writer Adam Geller described Monday as the kind of morning “just right for an 11:05 a.m. first pitch at Fenway Park. A day to remind the kids about the heroes of the American Revolution before heading out to stake a place on the curb and cheer on modern-day heroes of the Marathon. A day, Bostonians say, when their city realizes the best of itself.

“And then, in 10 seconds of fury and smoke, the joy founded upon 117 years of sweat and aspiration was stolen away when a pair of bombs exploded near the finish line, killing at least three people and injuring more than 140. It left a scene of shattered glass and severed limbs that terrorized the city.

Spectators, who moments before had been cheering family and friends were knocked to the ground. Blood stained the pavement. With reports that two more bombs had been found unexploded, Bostonians and visitors hunkered down in fear,” Geller wrote.

“But to appreciate the totality of what Boston surrendered in those moments of horror requires understanding just how much the city had to lose. Other cities have, no doubt, experienced far more horrific tragedies. But few have had their sense of security ripped away at a moment of such singular exultation, on a day that captures an essential part of this city’s soul,” he wrote.

Dr. and Darlia Conn were staying in the downtown Back Bay neighborhood where the 26-mile course ends, and stood at the broad blue-and-gold line painted across the street, watching as the top racers crossed that line to finish the race.

“We have watched this amazing spectacle many times before, since our first Boston Marathon in 1982,” Dr. Conn said early this morning. “We love the unique flavor of this, the granddaddy of all distance races.

“This year, it was a gorgeous spring day, cool air, warm sun, the full promise of winter on the wane. It was a morning full of youth and its energy and optimism. The Boston Marathon ends in the center of the Back Bay, the classic heart of old downtown Boston. Darlia and I had been standing at the curbside barriers for a couple of hours by 1:30, as the top runners completed their race, followed by thousands of runners who were still pouring down Boylston Street toward us and the finish line, through a huge city block crowded with spectators. We wanted to soak up all the excitement of the day before leaving this epicenter of the running universe.”

Dr. Conn said he was anxious about leaving downtown in time to attend a meeting scheduled on the Lee campus the next day. To make it, he had to grab a taxi, which would speed him directly from the racecourse to Boston’s Logan International Airport where he could board a Delta flight to Atlanta and make his way back to Lee University.

“With the sounds of excited marathoners still filling the air, Darlia hustled me two blocks away, hailed a cab, and with a kiss, dispatched me toward the airport and away from the happy scene of the finish line — a scene that would soon be one of blood and terror and shocking violence.”

Geller wrote that the pain and despair spread across the city, echoing off empty cobblestones and by evening, SWAT team members with machine guns patrolled hospitals and stood outside hotels that were on lockdown. Most bars had closed early on a night when they’re typically packed with post-race revelers.

Dr. Conn said Darlia had planned to stay behind in Boston Monday night because she had tickets for a special concert at Symphony Hall, where the Boston Symphony Orchestra should have played a sold-out program of all-Beethoven music, matching the mood of a city caught up in its annual celebration of heroic sport and victory.

“Within two hours, though, everything changed. An ear-shattering explosion, then another, and suddenly that block of Boylston Street was filled not with happy athletes but with blood, the cries for help, the sirens of ambulances. The race was abruptly ended, many athletes who had dreamed of running that race, crossing not just any finish line but that particular finish line, now were diverted roughly to side streets and funneled into unfamiliar staging areas, to begin the long, stressful ordeal of finding their families,” Dr. Conn said.

It is impossible to overstate what a big deal the Boston Marathon is in the life of a city that has created so many sports legends, that stages big events on a commonplace basis, he said.

“In this old, proud city, on Patriot’s Day, the Boston Marathon is the king of the marathons; the most glamorous, legendary footrace in the world; but today, under a perfect April sun, for now it was Cinderella’s carriage turned to a pumpkin, a hopelessly shattered pumpkin, by the blink of a simple deadly bomb,” he said.

But, within 90 minutes of leaving the happy throngs, he was on a plane, taking off for Atlanta, disappointed to be missing the postrace celebrations and the concert, oblivious to how terribly soon the sidewalk where he and his wife had stood would be a killing field.

“Oblivious that by now, Darlia was already back in the apartment, trying to reach family and friends to tell them we were OK. She knew before I did that there would be no celebrations, no gilded symphony playing Beethoven, no Boston Bruins skating for hockey glory in the Garden that night,” he said. “Instead there is a city in prayer: of Bostonians one and all, thanking God for surviving grace; asking God for healing of bodies and spirits, for strength and comfort, for Him to give a city all these things it cannot possibly provide itself.”