AI: Boston

Boston. It hurts. A lot.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around yesterday’s bombing. I am a runner. I run for lots of reasons, but the one thing that keeps me honest about my running is racing. If I don’t train, I can’t race. I’m not fast. I don’t actually race anyone else besides me. But there’s something about a running event. Running with people. Entering your corral, standing with the strangers who will be your friends, by your side for the next however many miles of your life. You will share your journey with them. And you’ve all worked hard to be able to share that journey.

And the spectators. Standing on the side of the road, cheering you on. The high-five stations. The “worst parade ever” guys. The people handing out whiskey in the middle of that hill from hell.

Your family. Getting up with you to support you. Cabbing, busing, subway-ing around the city, racing you to the next milestone to give you a high five as you go by. Waiting at the finish line. Screaming as loud as they can as you cross. Hugging you despite your smell and moist-ness.

I cry at starting lines. Or, rather, I choke back tears in fear of looking ridiculous while weeping uncontrollably. I cry out of fear. I cry out of pride. I cry because I know that running a race is being part of something special. Something phenomenal. Something great.

I cry at finish lines. I don’t choke back those tears. I cry. Because I finished. Because I never thought I could. Because I worked hard. Because I was a part of that something special. I cry because when you’re by yourself, 10 miles can seem grueling and impossible. But when you’re racing, 13 miles in, you’re not ready to be done (ok, maybe you are, but not like that angry fuck-the-world finished you get after a particularly rough, long training run.) I cry because even as a teenager, I couldn’t run a mile. I cry because I am happy. I cry because I feel alive.

I run so I can race. I train so I can race. I work hard so that I can get up obnoxiously early, fight traffic, wait in line at portapotties, stuff my pockets full of Immodium and disgusting sugar-gels so I can race. And my family endures it because it’s important to me. Actually, my husband is the one who endures. My kids look forward to every single “running party” and wish we could do them every day. Because I taught them that to race is to love life.

Yesterday was an attack on all that. As well as an attack on a city I love… enough to name my kid “Moose Fenway”. And on my friends. And on so many things.

And I want answers. I need answers. I can’t understand who would do this. Why would someone do this? What does it mean for my next race? My son just started racing. What does it mean for his and other kids’ futures as runners? Today he doesn’t understand. He just knows that bad guys hurt some runners at the Boston Marathon. But he says he’s not scared, and he’s running his next race, a week and a half from now, without a grown up. Because, he says, “It’s gonna be okay, Mama.”

He’s right. It is gonna be okay. But it isn’t going to be the same.

And right now, it all just hurts.

What’s on your mind about Boston? Are your loved ones safe? Are you coping?

ETA: jonn below commented that if you are now looking for a place to donate, you can go to

Photo credit: Lisa Poole, AP

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. I surprisingly took this harder than I initially thought I would. I went to school in Mass. and have a lot of friends from in and around Boston, and it turned out they were all safe or nowhere near in the first place. Sure, being from the NY metro area our “rivalry” can often be pretty ridiculous and abrasive, but I love Boston in so many ways (just not its sports teams).

    I had to get away from the TV and Internet a lot yesterday because, sadly, it really did bring back a lot about 9/11 I try not to think about any more.

    1. Similar story for me. I spent some really fun/important years of my life in grad school in Boston, so this is hitting me harder than I expected. It somehow feels more personal to me. My thoughts about the appropriate level of punishment for the perps are pretty dark right now, despite my comments to my kids this morning about the death penalty. What I would really like to see happen to them (when they are caught, as I suspect they will be) is for their still living bodies to be rendered in a pressure coooker, and then the fat used to make a special soap for the residents of Boston to use to wash their taints.

  2. I lived in Brookline on the Marathon route, about three miles from the explosion site. On one of the first “dates” with my future wife Diane was to watch a Marathon. My brother-in-law and a best friend from H.S. have both run the race, along with many co-workers and neighbors. The city I’ve lived in for the past eighteen years, Framingham, is one of the eight communities that hosts the race.

    The Boston Marathon is one of New England’s biggest annual event and one of international renown. Boston will make it through.

    If you had to have a disaster with scores of traumatic casualties, there would be no place that is better prepared than the Hub. The response to the attack was immediate and unwavering. Boston’s Finest (PD, FD, & Medics) saved many lives. Our doctors and hospitals are the best in the world and hundreds of volunteer medical professionals were already on-site to treat exhausted and injured Marathon runners.

    A hateful asshole took advantage of Patriot’s Day and a community event that celebrates human will and determination, to attack our city. But we discovered that the real Patriots were those that ran into the smoke and destruction to aid and comfort the survivors of this cowardly attack.

    Boston WILL prevail and this terror attack will be remembered forever as one of Boston’s darkest and finest hours.

  3. My ex’s family is from Boston. Her mom and niece were at the Children’s Hospital nearby for brain cancer treatments (thank you, MassHealth) when the bombs went off… a bit shaken, but ok. She also had some friends that worked in that area, but all were ok.

    For me, things are a bit unreal. It’s something I heard about, but it hasn’t really sunk in.

  4. My social media pages are flooding with people asking me to pray, how they are going to shoot the terrorist who did this, and that Mr. Rogers’ mother told him to look for helpers. I’d rather hear about what people can constructively do.

    1. The good news is that “donating blood” isn’t something you can do… because the Red Cross filled up thanks to Boston stepping up and giving them ALL THE BLOOD. There’s no need for more blood.

      When does that ever happen? Ever.

      1. I saw someone was making up 27.6 bumper stickers for those who crossed the line and continued to MGH to give blood. I fear the people who own the trademark on “race distance inside an oval” bumper sticker will shut them down….

  5. Thank you for this. As a runner myself, the events really hit close to home, though I have no ties to Boston. I definitely cried all the long commute home from work. And it’s going to be with me, still, at my next race and the next–I don’t know how to deal with that. How do you cope with an event that didn’t technically directly affect you at all but in reality hurts and scares you so much?

    1. For me, it’s not even the fear… I mean, I worry about copycats, but until I know that there’s a large organized effort to attack runners and events, I can put it aside that the threat is real and immediate. For now, it’s just real but remote.

      But the scar. The trust that the finish line will be a place of glory and celebration, that’s marred. The finish line is now a place where our brothers and sisters and allies were brutally attacked. That scar… that’s not going away.

      I’m still crying. I don’t know when I’ll be able to stop.

  6. I think as a Canadian I tend to feel very isolated from events like this. But I am affected. I did my first and only running race a year and a half ago. I loved the rush. I was supposed to take part a second time last year but I left the country. The point is running is awesome. And I have an inkling of how running a marathon would be. What a shock to not be able to finish and deal with the realisation that people have been killed maimed.

    The other part of this is wondering who did this the longer it takes the longer that people question their neighbours. It scares me that people are pointing fingers at a certain group of people. I think the reality is that it is domestic criminal activity. But who knows, you would think if it was a political statement a group would of taken responsibility. I hope that they find the person(s) responsible quickly and without doubt.

    I have been feeling off today. I was shaken to see the pictures. I took solace in the Mr Rogers meme that went across Facebook talking about the helpers. There are always people to help and I hope that in any incident I would be brave and help my fellow human. Or that they would help me if I needed it.

  7. One quick addition. They don’t need blood now. But next week and the weeks after will be when Bostonians will need to be donating. They will use up a lot over the next week and will need replenishment.

  8. I’m still fucking shaky.

    Boston was my home for two years and I fell in love with the entire place – the big ass buildings, the transits, the cabbies that could take you anywhere, the people, the accents, the everything. I can still see the perma-painted “Start/Finish” line in my mind and now that picture is stained with blood.

    So yeah, I’m feeling like a distant friend just got the shit kicked out of them. But you know what? Boston’s a hell of a town and it will pick itself right the fuck back up and I almost pity the cowards who did this, whoever they are.

  9. I got confirmation pretty quickly that most people I knew personally were OK. The community of Boston hopefuls I belong to had several tense hours until the head coach checked in and let us know that he and everyone who was dedicated enough, skilled enough, and indeed lucky enough to make it this year were okay. I still didn’t get a lot of work done, watching the Globe’s liveblog (they took down the rest of the site to keep that going.)

    Then I got the word that a friend had family in the hospital. The latest is that she’s woken up and is coherent enough to understand what happened and that she’ll probably walk again: they were able to save enough of her leg for a prosthesis. She still has more surgeries to go. Her husband isn’t coherent enough yet to know what happened. But they’ll probably recover.

    And this afternoon BU finally announced that the student in critical was a grad student, and that the third fatality was also. Based on what the Chinese consulate has released I’m shamefully hopeful it’s nobody in my old program, but it’s another GRS student who won’t finish, and another who has a tough road ahead.

    I just ordered another BU shirt for my next marathon in three weeks. I wish I were in my old apartment, yards off the Marathon route, instead of thousands miles away. Yes, I wish I were closer to disaster.

    I’m not going to be able to qual for 2014. But 15…

    It looks like the place to donate is

  10. I sometimes wish we could ‘like’ posts. But I feel like we need a virtual group hug here. And know that we are thinking of you and your friends.

  11. Too close. My niece was there. Student at BU. No phone contact but she got through on Facebook. Holy crap. The FB connection went both ways. She had no idea what was going on. She posted that she heard explosions and there was a lot of confusion and people running.

    My husband had 17 coworkers in the race. All ok but 2 supporters each lost a leg. Holy crap.

    On my way to work today I worried that the car next to me would swerve into me or that the tractor trailer wheel would fly off and crush me. The world felt dangerous and random and scarey.

    Would I have rushed in to help?

    Does it really matter if it is domestic or not?

  12. Elyse

    I meant to leave comment here earlier, but I wasn’t able to get around to it, until now. The thing on my mind about Boston right now is my hope that they will find out who committed this attack and bring him to justice soon. In the worst case scenario he’s able to carry out something similar again, and we definitely don’t want more innocent people to loose their lives. My heart goes out to victims.

  13. One of my first thoughts upon hearing the news was wondering if any of you skepchicks were in attendance. I even considered the possibility that the MRA planted the bombs to try to get you guys! Anyway, glad to hear you’re all whole and hale.

  14. Australia feels your pain. Our great marathon legend Robert de Costella was on TV last night talking about the mayhem. He has set up a foundation to encourage young marginalised Aboriginal kids to participate which does wonders for their self esteem, so yeah, a great and worthwhile event and the tragedy is all the sadder for that.

    But I know that the great folks of Boston will not let this setback deter them and the future for this event will ultimately be even brighter. Thanks for a great post Elyse and my thoughts are with the victims and their families as well as everybody else touched by this disaster.

  15. All my friends and acquaintances who were running it finished before the blasts so they are ok. It was a weird feeling, the whole bombing thing. Like you, I am also (as you full well know, but others might not) a runner. I am not yet fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon and hopefully will one day have the chance to qualify and run it. I watched my sister run it 4 years ago and it was a great time. I actually took this hard as it was an attack on my sport and the running community, which is a difficult thing to deal with in its own right I feel for those who lost loved ones and for the injured, and they are in my thoughts. I ran an impromptu 5K the day of the bombing, and have been wearing race shirts every day since, not really much in the way of helping, more of a local expression of my support for the victims. I expect the race will continue, it just sucks that this happened at all let alone this particular event.

  16. Hi, Elyse. Thank you, and thanks to everyone, who have been letting us in Boston know how much you care about us, our city, and the amazing runners and volunteers and first responders at the Marathon. This morning has really been the first time since Monday that I could sit at the computer and catch my breath. So many people on Skepchick have either lived in Boston or have some tie here I’ve wanted to give you guys at least a brief update.

    First, a little info if you’re familiar with Boston: Boylston around Copley is still closed today, but the crime scene area shrank a bit yesterday. The blocks up towards the Public Garden, near Arlington, have opened. If anyone on Skepchick went to AAAS Boston then you’re familiar with the Hynes Convention Center end of Bolyston, towards Mass Ave. As of last night, that was still closed. During the business day, about 10 cops and armed state guardsmen are in all the T stations. Last night, coming home from work at midnight, I saw a few still. Everyone is somber, but I think the numbness is lifting. I work next to the Commons. Last night there were two vigils, one in Dorchester at Garvey Park for Martin Richard, and one on Common for all the victims. To the extent that I can say I’m glad about anything, I’m glad to say that over a thousand people showed up at Garvey Park: Martin’s dad is going through hell right now and that show of support is so meaningful. From the windows at work, it looked like about five hundred people were on the Common. Just gathering for mutual commiseration is helping. As David Bernstein, political columnist extraordinaire of the (sadly late) Boston Phoenix tweeted last night, to the best of my memory, “My sense of humor is creeping back.”

    Twitter and constant bouncing between a handful of political & news sites has been extremely helpful. And I can’t say enough about the Mayor’s office and Mass FEMA. During the hours when the cell towers were down and no one knew what was happening I got texts from both about what streets were open & closed, what was happening w/ trains, et al. All I can say is if you guys can, sign up for you emergency notifications with your locality. It spared us a lot of confusion. Briefly, at the time of the explosions, I was in a coffee shop in Downtown Crossing, about eight blocks from the finish line. It was full of college students, who had the holiday off, and marathon runners who had finished. It was loud and cheerful and busy. We didn’t hear a thing. Even as the ambulances and firetrucks sped by, at first we didn’t suspect anything: on Patriot’s Day there are always cops and ambulances speeding around. I walked to work a few blocks away, and realized that the sirens and emergency vehicles were still going. That was when I got the first alert to stay away from Copley Square, and we turned on the news at work & saw what happened. Because I live in the city and most of my coworkers do not, and, of course, most subway service was suspended, I stayed at my job (I work in a university library) with a skeleton crew for a long shift so students would have a place to be. Many of them commute and couldn’t get home until much later. I worked last night but spent the day checking in with friends and family (phone service was sketchy until late Monday). Only one friend of mine was injured, and while her injuries are horribly painful but she will be okay. We feel lucky. As she put it, the initial pain to her left leg was so bad she stopped registering it and she half passed out. She has very little memory of the events after the bombing. She’ll need to be immobile for a week, and she’ll be on crutches for a while, but she’s okay. One of the nice things that happened yesterday was that I walked her dog for her– allegedly, I was helping her out but I think I got more out of it, although I’m happy she doesn’t have pee puddles to worry about on top of everything else.

    I’m going to cut & paste an exchange I had on Wonkette yesterday in re the #prayforboston tweets. Please feel free to use natl_[redacted]_cmdr’s excellent tweet suggestion.

    “…Ever since this happened, people have been tweeting that they are praying for Boston. The thought and sentiment behind that is nice, and I mean that. However, we godless atheist hellburnt types are into action over prayer. Since last night, I have been trying to figure out a way of tweeting, in 140 characters (!), some thing like this:

    ‘Hello, nice people! In lieu of prayers– and we Massholes thank you for the thought– let’s all do something we’ve never done before to benefit someone else. Do it in honor of Boston, but, hey, it can be for a local charity. So if you’ve run a 10k but never a marathon, run a marathon. If you walk a lot but have never run, train to do a 5k. If you haven’t left your sofa in years, put down the controller, turn off the PS3, and do one of those charity walky-thingies. Just don’t do any of them for pro-life groups or I’ll be mad. Schools and vets and animals are great, if you want to do it for them! And olds and poors! Jesus would approve! And I’d rather you not do it for a church or prayer group or that stuff, because I don’t think it will help. BUT THAT DOESN”T MEAN YOU’RE NOT NICE FOR THINKING ABOUT US! Really! Thanks for thinking about us! Especially since Boston is largely composed of lapsed Catholics, pretending-not-to-be-lapsed Catholics, Unitarians, other Protestants who wear rainbow vestments, some members of other religions that are prefaced with the word “liberal” or “progressive,” and atheists. We may not be, how shall I say, every praying person’s cup of tea. But thanks!’

    Now please help me fit this in to 140 characters.

    Reply: natl_[redacted]_cmdr 113p · 19 hours ago
    In lieu of prayers let’s all do something we’ve never done before to benefit someone else. Do it in honor of Boston but it can be local. thx

    140 on the nose. Grammar/ punctuation don’t matter on the twitters. And a very good idea. Praying is fine for those of us who are into that sort of thing. Actions seem to matter more in this world.

    Reply: bibliotequetress 99p · 18 hours ago
    Excellent! Shall post it now. Merci, cmdr!

    Reply: bibliotequetress 99p · 18 hours ago
    So, I just tweeted it. Will let you know if anyone gives feedback. Thanks, again. I think my brain just can’t fully work today.

    Reply: natl_[redacted]_cmdr 113p · 17 hours ago
    Hooray! Awesome. Does this count as my good deed for Boston? I think I will volunteer at a food bank, also. Just to be sure.

    Reply: bibliotequetress 99p
    Yes, the good deed must include
    a) Standing up
    b) Putting on pants


    Again, thank you EVERYONE. I’ll post a link later. Some of the folks at Harvard Humanist were injured and collections are being taken for that. My big favor I ask from my Skepchick friends is to be vigilant against the upcoming bullshit that is going to surround this, rumor and conspiracy wise.

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