Runners from across the United States ventured back into Boston’s Back Bay on Tuesday, facing grim memories from Monday’s brutal Boston Marathon bombings, to retrieve bags, keys and cell phones left behind during the attack’s chaotic aftermath.
But they emerged from the Park Plaza Castle with more than they expected – the medals they had earned the day before, but were unable to collect at the doomed finish line.
“I didn’t know that was coming. I told my dad before he passed that the medal was his. I hugged a stranger. I’m very happy to be bringing this home to him,” said Chicago resident Kim Berlygrauer.
Security stood guard outside the meeting space, which since Monday night has acted as a shelter and meeting area for displaced runners and residents. The Boston Athletic Association handed out the medals and sorted through abandoned belongings, and American Red Cross workers assisted those in need.
Media was not permitted within the center, but as people in blue and yellow shirts emerged it was clear that the spirit inside was one of hope and healing.
“It’s nice. Obviously under the circumstances it’s the best that can be done,” said Massachusetts resident Mitch Riesenberger, who was ordered to stop running less than a mile from the finish line.
“I’m already thinking about next year,” he said. “It means more now than ever.”
Reflecting on chaos, tragedy
“I was stopped at mile 25. It was kind of heartbreaking. … I just wanted to keep going because I was having a really good race until then. This year I was going for it; I knew I had it. It was shocking. I wish everyone would have been able to finish, but I’m glad that I have it.” — Jeannie Hannigan, of Keene, N.H., on collecting her medal despite being forced to abandon the race.
“To be honest with you, I’m still trying to figure out how I feel. You get to that point and it’s all you’re waiting (for). That adrenaline and the euphoria that you feel went right out the window.” — Hopkinton resident Mitch Riesenberger on not finishing the race.
”I’m going to surprise her with it later tonight. We happened to be driving by. We had no idea this was here. ... We pulled over and heard they were giving out the medals so we grabbed one. She was going under the Massachusetts Avenue bridge when they flagged her off. She was going to break her personal best.” — Blake Windsor of Boston on retrieving his wife Juli Windsor’s medal. Juli is a dwarf who was profiled by The Boston Globe for being one of two dwarfs to run this year.
“It was better than any medal you could ever get. I reunited with them in Boston Common. … There were tears. It was the greatest sight to see all of them. I thought I lost my loved ones.” — Chicago resident Kim Berlygrauer on finding her family members, who were near the finish line. She went on to describe Tuesday's mood, saying, "The running community, no matter what city you’re in, it’s always very close. I do believe today is a little more optimistic. I think that everybody knows what everyone else has been through. So there is that camaraderie there.”