One anniversary down, one to go. That is the kicker about this whole thing. We get not one, but TWO anniversaries every year. The 15th is a difficult day but so is the marathon itself, bringing together crowds, loud noise, and the exact same circumstances that we were around that day. Many have chosen to run, some choose to simply stay away and others make the decision to watch, either right in the thick of it, or somewhere farther out. Everyone heals differently. But, everyone affected feels it all on both days. As of right now, my plan is to be in the stands at the finish line, to see Matt and many others finish. Who knows what will happen or how I'll feel on Monday. I'm taking it as it comes rather than worry about it now.
This has been such a long week, with work, the anniversary and my interview with the FBI. I'm looking forward to Tuesday when I know the adrenaline will wear off and I will be ready to crash hard. But, I'm also making sure I enjoy all of the happy moments, which this weekend will be the 5k and a Sox game with a couple of my girls on Sunday.
Now, Wednesday. It was a long and exhausting day but also a day of friendship, laughs, and love. I woke up after barely any sleep and started to get myself ready. I have an extra factor in preparing to leave the house for a long day because of my health issues. I need to heat and pack up soup in a thermos and other foods that I can actually eat (still not very many). I was actually up earlier than I even needed to be since I couldn't sleep and thought that would make me get out on time or earlier. WRONG. It was like I couldn't actually get anything done at a normal pace and kept forgetting things and was anxious about forgetting something I needed. I ended up packing multiple changes of clothes and my food. As I rushed out to the car and started the GPS, it said I would arrive 15 minutes later than I wanted, giving me just 15 minutes to park, gather my stuff and myself, and make my way to the street in time for the banner unveiling at Forum. I had a plan to park farther away but realized I would have to park right at the Pru to get there in time at this point. I don't like to rush, especially on such a day, so some anxiety started to set in and as I began driving, the tears came. I managed to pull myself together and waves of emotion continued to hit on the 55 minute drive. Then came the leg. What happens when my leg wants to shake but can't (i.e. when I'm driving with it), is a tingling, sort of numb feeling comes. I felt it start as I drove over the Tobin, still 20 minutes out and worrying they'd close the street before I could drive down and park. I literally said to myself, "shit" but then remembered I knew this could happen and it didn't mean a setback. It meant this day is a really hard day and if my body wants to react, I can accept it and let it be. Fighting it would just make everything worse. I managed to get down the street in time, after being extremely frustrated driving through the city and people slowly walking across the street when I had green lights.
I parked and then tried to find my way out of the Prudential garage. UGH. I think it's one of the garages I dislike the most. I found one elevator that wasn't working and then started to really feel overwhelmed and almost "trapped"as I navigated through, feeling like I was in some maze you have to figure your way out of. I finally managed to find the elevator I needed and was up on Boylston by 7:38, 7 minutes to spare. At first, I thought I'd be alone at "my bomb site" because it seems most of my closest people were at the first one, but I luckily didn't end up alone. As I stood on the sidewalk, my legs started, not just the right, but both, which caused my whole body to shake just a bit. I could feel that all too familiar tightness in my chest and lump in my throat. As I heard bagpipes, tears filled my eyes. I stood there watching the short ceremony and cried, trying to catch my breath as the shaking intensified. When it was over, we started to walk down the street but I had to cross. I was just not feeling I could walk past "my spot" at that moment.
The private breakfast thrown for us at the BPL was nice, with many familiar faces and some new as well as familiar faced from City Hall. My leg continued to shake, whether I was sitting or standing (you know it's worse when it shakes while standing) but I think it's was being overwhelmed with everyone coming in and the crowd in the room as well as just feeling emotional. I feel very lucky for my people though. My closest girls checked in on me, let me know they noticed it happening, joked a little, but didn't bring too much attention to it. One said later that when she saw me shaking as she came in, she thought something like, "Oh fuck." Some others I hadn't seen in a while asked if I was okay and asked what I needed. I replied with "I'm okay. This actually doesn't happen anymore and it makes sense right now so I'm just accepting it. It'll be ok." Some just said okay, others still looked concerned and made me promise I'd come tell them if I needed anything. In case I haven't said this enough, I love my people. The Mayor was one of those people. I sat down next to his girlfriend to say hi and when he saw me, he sat down and looked at me with a compassionate and worried look and said, "How are you doing?" I told him I was good, that overall, things had been great and that it was a difficult day but I was okay. It reminded me why I supported and have some love for that man. Everyone was surrounding him and wanting to talk to him as usual and he took a moment to check in on me. I also watched him remember and connect with many survivors in the room. As the room started to empty out, my leg finally stopped shaking. HALLELUJAH!
I then made my way to a service project to pack bags for 6th grade students followed by visiting Old South Church. The Resiliency Center set up there all day to offer services such as reiki, chair massage, acupuncture, and manicures. We hung out a bit and then I had to go find my car to change and eat some of my soup. One friend joined me for the walk. We walked each other through some of our moments from that day, showing each other our exact "spots". As I went to mine, I stood there for a minute with a surreal feeling looking to one side and then the other to see the two bombing sites and then I asked her to take a picture of me. I wanted to have a picture of myself in "my spot", showing that even if it's still hard to go there, I can do it and even with a smile on my face.
As we stood there, I noticed a man in a bike helmet, wearing an MR8 (Martin Richard team) shirt, against a building straight across from me. I could tell he was crying, as his head was down and he was pinching his nose, the way people do when they cry. I wanted to go to him and just give him a hug, but was sort of frozen. We watched him walk down closer to the site of the bomb and do the same thing, stand against a building and take a few moments. A man with a camera who I'm assuming was media, was snapping away at this man's moment of pain and it made me mad. I still wanted to just go hug him or ask if he was okay but I also thought maybe he wouldn't want that. It's a weird moment to be in, knowing exactly what a stranger is feeling and not knowing what to do. He then got on his bike and left and I was wishing I had gone over.
A small group of us met for lunch and a drink. It was nice to be with people that understood that you could suddenly be crying one minute from a noise, or seeing a particular spot on the street and then you could be laughing soon after. This happened often throughout the day for many people. Sirens, someone dropping something next to us. It was like tiny little anxiety attacks all day, but nothing that stayed for long, which was nice. Our poor waiter came over at a point when someone had some tears and then when he asked if we were celebrating anything special that day, we just decided to tell him what we were there for. Oh, hello, awkward moment. His response was putting his hand over his mouth and saying "I'm so sorry". But, we laughed and told him it was okay. He gave us a dessert on him at the end which was very sweet.
We made our way back to the finish line for the moment of silence, spotting another friend we've made along this journey and joining him. As it got closer, more people filled the sidewalk and it seemed most were random people from the street mixed in with some survivors. There were cameras and media everywhere all day and at that moment, there must have been 15+ of them right there. I figured that would be the way my body would hold my emotion in. I usually close up and shut down when there are too many strangers around and the media. The bells started to toll, and the tears came. I tried to pull them back in and couldn't. I held a friend's hand and felt another friend lightly touching my hair and shoulder. Let me stop and say how much I love these people I've become so close with. They are some of the most compassionate people I know while also being sarcastic and sharing my sense of humor and overall personality. You can certainly find some beautiful people when you go through a trauma.
As the moment finished, I realized a few cameras spotted me, no matter how much I thought I was hidden and I saw them take my picture out of the corner of my eye. I happily haven't seen any of those images or video clips so apparently, my crying wasn't good enough which is absolutely fine with me! I wished I had a tissue in that moment and could suck it all in. A reporter walked up to me and asked, "Hi, would you be willing to share with us your reflections from today?" I simply shook my head and said, "no". I have never wanted to be in the media. I did two written articles last year around the anniversary, but to be on camera is something I'm not interested in. As much as I want to bring awareness to it, I don't feel comfortable being so vulnerable on video. Plus, it's my story and my reflections to share with those I want to share and those who want to read it, not the media and the public.
My friend turned me around toward her in that moment, pulled my sunglasses over my eyes and we made our way into Marathon Sports to cry some more with friends and then share some laughs. A trip to Starbucks and back to Old South Church for a bit were followed by sitting in the sun capturing some pictures of flags at half mast accompanied by Boston Strong flags and then a little photo shoot with some of my girls and some more laughs. I am SO unbelievably blessed to have so many people, but felt an immense feeling of gratitude with these ladies on Wednesday. It may have taken a long time to find "my people" but it was worth the wait. I couldn't have asked for better people to spend that day with. I'll be writing more about that on another day. That's a whole blog post in itself. :)
Some of us ended with a nice dinner and then one friend and I walked back to Boylston for one last pass getting to our cars. The Lenox was lit up beautifully for the day and I snapped some pics before we finally left, 13 hours later. I honestly don't know how I made it through the day since most days, I cant' keep my eyes open all day since i've been feeling so sick, but as the girls said, it was probably just adrenaline. Exhaustion hit on the drive home and my eyes burned.
I had a few people reach out to me Wednesday to say they were thinking of me. It was nice. I have to remember that I can't expect everyone to do that though. It's frustrating. But, I know some people don't know what to say, others are caught up in every day life and some just don't want to address it. And it's always the people who reach out that I don't expect which is actually really nice.
Yesterday was a work day which I soon regretted since I was completely drained and still emotional, but I got through it and luckily was able to nap afterwards for a little bit. Then, I was off to take some pictures of things I missed Wednesday. Normally, I'd notice and take pictures of the little things, but I barely took my camera out. I was trying to be more "in the moment". As I made my way down Boylston yesterday in the evening, I felt tears fill my eyes and that little bit of flutter and tightness in my chest. I texted my ladies to say I realized how different it is to be there alone than with people. I had been so determined to take pictures that I didn't really think about how I'd feel when I walked down there alone, with even more of the stuff up making it look like that day. I got through it though, having a slight panicked feeling inside whenever a siren would start wailing. I swear there were way more than usual in that 30 minutes I was there. Maybe not, but it certainly seemed like a lot. After, I went to have dinner with a friend and then home to bed early.
Today, I was WIPED. I had to drive back into the city to get my finish line passes at City Hall. On the way, I almost got off two wrong exits (like, almost completely off them) and they weren't ones I ever get off so I can't blame it on habit. I realized just how off focus and tired I am. Then, I parked at Haymarket and as I walked, every noise got to me. Sirens wailed by, people were beeping and it all felt like it went right through my body. I was then told, once I made it to the office I needed to go to, that the passes wouldn't be ready until 3 and to come back. Luckily, someone I know there who was also a survivor saw me at that moment and maybe even could tell I was about to have a breakdown right there. We arranged to meet up tomorrow and she would bring the passes to me. Wasted trip, but deep breathe. The rest of the day has been one thing after another that makes me realize I need to just give up on this day. I could use a do over and want the lump that's been in my throat all day to just go away. Now, to focus on some cooking to get me through the next few days and hopefully a little editing and then SLEEP.
I'll write more about some other things tomorrow such as the immense gratitude I feel and a few things I've realized and reflected on these last couple of days. I'm too tired to get that deep right now. :)