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After Tragedy: A New Purpose

Kerry Phelan ’16 Staff Writer This year marked my fourth consecutive year volunteering at the Boston Marathon at mile 17. The Wicked Running Club, partnered with PowerGel, has been at the spot for the last five years and as a member, I had always been given the opportunity to volunteer.

This year, the club member who organizes the volunteers agreed to my request to let 10 members of Merrimack’s girl’s track team volunteer with Wicked.

The tragedies that afternoon began just as we were wrapping up our assignment. Before the explosions, the volunteer station had been, once again, an awesome experience. Our team and the club worked together really well and everyone had a great time watching not just the elites, but the thousands of runners who raced for time, for charity, or for fun. Our job was simple – hold out Powergel to the runners so they could grab them as they ran by.

Each of us was assigned a different flavor, and wore a shirt that matched the flavor’s color. As a bonus, we each received an official yellow Boston Marathon volunteer jacket. By 3 p.m., we were both exhausted and thrilled by the day’s excitement. We had just taken a group picture and returned to our cars when the news of the bombing reached us.

Panic immediately swept us as I thought of all the Wicked club members, and my mother, who was running with her best friend and would be finishing right around the four-hour mark. Desperately, each person in my car began to call her. When we finally got ahold of her, she was at mile 24, completely clueless of what was happening at the finish line. No one, especially not her, had seen this coming.

The marathon was such a happy Patriots’ Day tradition, and runners and spectators looked forward to it every year. The first hours following the tragedy did not get any better. The runners scattered, cold and exhausted, without their possessions, looking for some direction, many unable to make a phone because cellphone service had been cut. Boston was gridlocked; police roamed the hospitals, major buildings, and streets.

Getting out of the city, for a long time, was nearly impossible. Looking back on the experience, I am still very shaken. My own family had been in the midst of it all, and I knew people who were injured at the finish line, some more seriously than others. However, in no way will it stop me. Despite the tragedies, Boston pulled together and reacted courageously. Not only will I continue to volunteer, I will run the marathon one day. After watching my mom run Boston twice, and running the finish with her both times, I look forward to running down Boylston, remembering the tragic day that Boston became stronger than ever.

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