I woke up yesterday feeling sort of numb. My leg shook but inside, nothing. I was up nice and early so I went to grab the papers and breakfast. I wanted to have the papers, with stories of some of my friends and as a commemoration of how far everyone has come. I started to receive texts, Facebook posts and messages, and emails. I cried. I cried as it really hit me what day it was. It hit me that people were sending their love and support, which was appreciated. It was nice to know that people were thinking of what day it was and how it would be a difficult one for me. In a year where i've never felt weaker or more alone, every single message I get is so very appreciated. I got messages and emails from people I hadn't even talked to in a long time, beautiful messages.
I also heard from people who had no idea until they opened up their Globe that I was ever there. More strangers sent message or emails, one letting me know about her services with Energy Psychology after she read how I describe my shaking as the bad energy releasing. I also got a message on Facebook from a women who was also there last year. She has been silently struggling because she didn't know where to turn and she has felt that guilt that I've talked about before. I know her pain. I know exactly what it feels like to not know where to turn and to feel you shouldn't feel the way you do. I still struggle with it sometimes, even though I now have this beautiful community of people around me. She came across this blog on yesterday of all days. I do not believe in coincidences. I've said that before.
I believe that everything really does happen for a reason. Sometimes it's hard to accept and understand that, especially when innocent people and children die. It's hard to accept when many are injured physically and emotionally and you're going through your own version of Hell. But, I believe the world is a better place because the amputees have overcome and continue to show themselves and the world that they are standing again and doing beautiful things despite their injuries. I believe the world is better because we were awakened by the messages those who passed have sent us. Most importantly and striking was Martin's message, "No more hurting people. Peace". Every time I see that, I cry over a beautiful little boy lost, but I also think about how hate and anger have no place in our lives. I think about the love shown over the last year to everyone and how important that message really is. It's a reminder for us adults, hardened by life. It's a strong message from the innocence of a child.
So, I don't think it's any coincidence that this woman found my blog on the anniversary of that day that changed our lives. Again, this is why I write and share my story publicly. I want others who have been silently struggling to know that they aren't alone and I hope I can help them.
It took me forever to get ready yesterday, which has been typical. I feel like I walk circles around my apartment. I finally left, got a good breakfast from a friend and a ride into the city from another. As I stood waiting for another friend to show up so I could put my change of clothes bag in her car, my legs were both shaking. She was stuck in traffic and soon, my anxiety couldn't take waiting anymore and so, I brought the bag with me so I could be "that person" going through security, an already uncomfortable process. I stood in the security line alone, trying to find a familiar face in the crowd, but that didn't happen except for one family passing by. I felt sick to my stomach, shaky, and that familiar lump in my throat. As I stood there, I had a thought that this would be the day someone would play a joke and call in a threat or do something else stupid. It didn't necessarily scare me, it made me mad and nervous our tribute would be interrupted. I don't feel like I get scared of called in threats. I don't believe that if someone really wants to do something awful that they give a "head's up". Still, that is the thought that entered my head. I finally got through security and got on the escalator.
Once at the top, I saw a guy I know, a great guy who was volunteering and who started The Next 26, a great group of people who vowed to throw 26 positive and fundraising events over the last year. Their last one is marathon Monday. I immediately walked to him and he opened his arms and I hugged him, telling him it was good to see someone I knew. He said he'd walk me over to show me where to go. I entered the hallway and then the ballroom. I was overwhelmed by the crowd but found people I knew quickly. I talked to a few friends who were also feeling it. I talked to the Semper Fi people who have been so good to us. I told them about the messages I've been getting and how helping people is helping me. I saw some City Hall friends and walked around getting hugs, waves, and kind words from many. I love my marathon community. A simple, "we're okay" or "smile. we're here together" as they saw me shaking was comforting. My uncle made it just before it started and we sat down next to other friends of mine.
My leg shook. They have both started to hurt, so it's now aggravating, but I still just let it happen. The ceremony was absolutely beautiful. Starting at the first choral song, I was crying. During Menino's speech, I cried harder. Then Patrick took the podium. Last summer I talked about meeting a woman for dinner who was living in a hotel, away from her home in California, here to take care of her daughter and son-in law who both lost a leg. She was a beautiful person and I would find once I met them months later, that they were as well. Patrick's speech was powerful and beautiful. It spoke to all of us. It was from the heart. I cried harder and laid my head on my uncle's shoulder as he put his hand on my knee for support. Luis and David also did a great job, sharing the positivity and strength of all of us. Then, there was Adrianne. For those who don't know I have the honor to be Adrianne's photographer. The first time we met and did pictures, we also talked about the emotional struggles we both were dealing with and I realized they were the same even if some are on different levels. She is a beautiful person. We exchanged some emails this week leading up to the Tribute, words of support and love. She is now doing motivational speaking and it's obvious why. Her speech, with words of strength, words of encouragement, and even some humor was beautiful. And, my favorite part, her phrase that "It's okay to not be okay", speaks to all of us. In the year of Boston Strong, we have to keep reminding each other that it doesn't mean we have to be "strong" all the time. We grieved all together in that room for lives lost, limbs lost, and the struggle we all have faced, but we also looked ahead and heard of strength. Menino said no matter what, when the media and the public fade, they will be there for us. That really hit me and it is appreciated by everyone.
After the tribute, I got stuck in the crowd leaving and going to the coat check and was feeling very overwhelmed and anxious, searching for anyone I knew. To add insult to injury, the coat check girl was rude to me. I finally found familiar faces and walked out with them, one holding my hand through the thick of the crowd and then with his hand reaching up to touch my shoulder every minute or so just to let me know he was right behind me. Another reason I love these people.
We found more people downstairs and made our way out into the gross, rainy and windy day. I think it helped to have the weather so drastically different from last April 15. As we walked down the street, I felt everything pull itself inside my body. There were people lining the streets and the crowd at the finish line was thick. I was still shaking, but everything else had pulled inside my chest and I had that feeling of a golf ball in my throat. I knew what that meant. My brain was not going to let me cry. I hate that feeling. It feels uncomfortable and I get an instant headache. When I cry, it at least feels like some relief as it comes out. I told myself it was okay to cry, but that lump just grew bigger as we stood there at the finish line with just a few tears along the way. I saw a cop across from me, holding a flag, crying. She was obviously feeling it and all I wanted to do was hug her. At the end, I saw Adrianne standing close and walked over. She immediately hugged me and asked how I was as I shook in our embrace. I said, "eh" and she said, "I know. I know." We said we'd see each other at the reception and I went back to other friends.
The reception was beautiful at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. They really did a great job. It was great to see everyone just enjoying each other's company after the weight of the earlier events. I spoke to Karen Odom, John Odom's wife and had an emotional moment with her. She talked about the beautiful gestures by a few women I know, one who is a friend, back when she was still living here while John was at Spaulding. We hugged and shared words of comfort. There were many more of these encounters and some smiles and laughs. It was also great to see little Jane Richards bouncing around laughing and having fun and her brother, Henry. A small group of us then made our way to someone's house. It was a beautiful place with an amazing view and we spent a couple of hours having drinks, food, and nice conversation as well as some laughs. We managed to take a group picture which I was even able to be in thanks to a table at perfect height to set my camera up with a timer and the rain had let up a little bit.
I started really getting to all of the messages sent to me throughout the day, reading every one carefully and thanking every person. I cried. The following is the message I posted on Facebook.
Going through all of the messages, emails, and texts sent to me today has me crying, but not in a bad way. I am struck by the people who have reached out, some who I haven't seen or really talked to in a very long time. I read each and every message and am so very thankful for all of the kind words and support, today especially. I have never felt more weak than I have this last year or more alone at times. Even though many will not be able to understand what myself and others have been going through and continue to go through, you still take a moment to realize it's hard and give a few words (or whole email) of support. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I appreciate it. So, THANK YOU.
Thank you to everyone for helping me get through a difficult year, a difficult day, and for continuing to support me along this long road i'm facing.