Chris’s Corner: Remembering What’s Important

Editor's Note: We have all heard about the terrible events at the Boston Marathon last month. When the bombs at the finish line on Boylston Street went off, everyone in Boston was affected. Many stories of empathy and heroism have been told, and there are many more to come. At CardioSource WorldNews, we plan to publish several of these stories of cardiologists and others caught in the middle of a disaster—but one where the emergency medical response likely saved many lives. In this month's column, cardiology fellow Matt Cavender, MD, shares his and his family's experience at the Boston Marathon. Thankfully, they were spared any harm, but were on the scene just before the horror began.

Patriot's Day is unique to Boston but anyone who has experienced it knows what a great All-American experience it is. After a long, cold winter, Patriot's Day is welcomed by New Englanders as the start of school spring break, warm weather (usually), baseball, and the running of the Boston Marathon. At our house, the morning was filled with blue skies, a cool spring breeze, and lots of excitement. The kids were out of school and I took a day off work and planned a day in the city watching the Boston Marathon and experiencing our first Patriot's Day. Our kids were excited about going into the city for a day of fun and I looked forward to seeing the elite marathon runners up close. So, we headed into the city, rode the T, and looked for a place to camp out and watch the race.

We found a great spot on Hereford Street, which gave us a front row seat to see the action. The crowd, activity, and excitement slowly built. Soon, we could hear news helicopters and police motorcycles. Suddenly the lead pack of runners turned down Hereford Street, ran past us, and then turned onto Boylston to continue the final sprint.

If you have never experienced a marathon, the first thing you notice is how they differ from most other types of sporting events. Spectators typically pull for one team or individual to win (and thus others to lose)—but this was different. Irrespective of the country noted on a runner's bib, or where the runner was in the pack, the crowd pressed up against the barricades cheering, whistling, and encouraging them, all the while admiring the grit, determination, and effort that the runners had exhibited to get to mile 26.

After a while, our toddler twins grew (understandably) a little weary of their stroller seats, so we headed down Boylston Street toward the finish line. We slowly pushed our way through crowded Copley Square while watching and applauding the runners who pushed across the finish line and excitedly took their Boston Marathon medal. The crowd was thick. Everyone was standing shoulder-to-shoulder, trying to get close enough to cheer for friends, family, and even strangers. On my right, I looked upward at the various flags representing the different nationalities of the many who worked so hard to qualify for and run this race.

One hour later, this would be the exact site of the first bomb. Blissfully unaware of what would occur, we emerged on the other side of the finish line ready to continue our day. After a stop on Newbury Street for cupcakes, we headed to the Boston Common and I watched my children running around with their icing-coated grins. I enjoyed and savored their carefree innocence as we soaked up a little more sun. In their minds, it was a perfect day.

On our drive home, we received a call from my mother-in-law who was watching the national news. She told us about the horrific events that had just happened. As the announcer on the radio described the events and what was known and not known, thoughts of disbelief, anger, sorrow, and even regret flooded through my mind. My mind was racing as I drove home silently watching the police cars and ambulances stream past me heading toward the site of the bombs. Once home, my wife and I shuffled our children downstairs so that we could watch the news. Seeing the live images of the site and watching the replay of the bombing only served to cement the realization that at that moment, hundreds, if not thousands, of lives were unnecessarily and forever scarred.

My story has a happy ending. My family was at the right place at the right time and escaped the tragedy. But my family will forever be touched by the heinous crime that hurt so many. As all parents did, I hugged my children a little tighter that night, hurting for those who couldn't do the same.

On April 15th, evil tried to shake Boston, America, and the people from all free and open societies. The stories that continue to emerge of heroes and survivors show that our spirits were not broken. So, while I continue to grieve for those who lost loved ones, I know those who caused this suffering did not, cannot, and will not break our spirits and the spirits of those who ran in the race. This great city and nation will emerge stronger and more united.

In the meantime, I am already planning on watching next year's marathon as my way of showing that these type of events will not affect our way of life. Who knows, maybe I will even run it myself.

Matthew A. Cavender, MD, is a research fellow for the TIMI Study Group. Dr. Cavender is based at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Clinical Topics: Sports and Exercise Cardiology

Keywords: Survivors, Sports, Bombs, Weather

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