|My Boston Marathon response service pin|
My memories of those tragic events started much like those of anyone who was not there. I followed the news of the bombings at the finish line on social media, and immediately reached out to a friend running the race to make sure she was okay. Four days later, though, I was on a plane to Boston to join in the Red Cross response, landing while the city was locked down during the manhunt for one of the suspects.
That flight was an experience I'll never forget, but what I'm really thinking about one year later is the people. First, the Red Crossers I was privileged to work with. Many of the Boston staff and volunteers were a part of the race, either running or supporting first aid stations during the Marathon, but they all put their personal grief aside to help the community. I remember how much everyone there appreciated the work of our own Disaster Mental Health lead volunteer, Tara Hughes, who helped set up the Family Support Center and used her experience to share vital tips for coping with the tragedy to the entire community. Another Western New York Disaster Mental Health volunteer, Dominic DiGirolamo, was my roommate in Boston and even though we cannot share the details, I will never forget the stories of the incredible work he did for the family of fallen M.I.T. officer Sean Collier.
Probably my greatest memory, though, is how resilient the Boston people were, and how thankful they were for our support. Two images really stick in my head. First, at a vigil at the scene of the bombing one week later, seeing a woman wearing a Boston Marathon shirt crying in the arms of a friend, and silently handing them tissues. The other is walking back to the Chapter following the memorial service for Officer Collier. Not once, but twice, an officer directing traffic noticed my Red Cross shirt and thanked me for being there. Each time I responded, "No, thank you," but those moments are why I am still so proud to have been a small part of our response.
That response continues one year later, as mental health volunteers share tips for dealing with the emotions this anniversary might stir up. Fleet Feet Sports and the American Red Cross will hold a special blood drive in commemoration of the Boston Marathon Bombings on Tuesday, April 15 from 2pm-7pm at Fleet Feet Sports at The Armory, 155 Culver Road in Rochester. If you can't make it there, consider donating blood at another drive to help hospital patients in need as a healing moment. Personally, I'm marking this solemn occasion by remembering everyone that makes #BostonStrong a reality.