Every street leading to Boylston was blocked with one or more dump trucks parked diagonally across the pavement. Pedestrians were confronted with a police-operated security-and-screening gate on every street, plus two layers of steel barricades. And all the while, helicopters buzzed overhead and foot patrol cops wandered through the crowd. Yikes.
How serious was the security? In recent days, a helicopter flew the race route at low altitudes (warnings were issued to forestall public concern); the copter was mapping natural background radiation so they'd have a baseline in the event someone set off a dirty bomb or other nuclear device. Swell.
There was nothing warm and fuzzy about this year's race.
Most of the spectators were kept well back from Boylston, and the runners; to get through the security gate, (to reach the sidewalk where I was last year, for example), you had to have a security pass; say, as a registered runner's family member.
So, I didn't get to where I wanted to be.
But all's well; it's over, and safely so.
I wonder if the race will ever regain its traditional friendly feeling.
I'm a little apprehensive today. I plan to go back to the spot where I was at 2:49pm last year, when the Marathon bombs went off.
I wasn't physically harmed at all. I was just across the street --- close enough to feel the pressure wave and smell the black-powder smoke, but far enough not to be hit by any shrapnel.
Here's the photo I took a few seconds later. I'd been swept along the sidewalk, away from the bomb, by the panicky crowd; I regained my footing and ducked into a niche in a building's facade, out of the flow, and took this shot.
Again, I wasn't hurt, but the whole experience was deeply affecting.
Part of it is the "what ifs." I'd been working that day, and hadn't planned to watch the Marathon. But I needed to visit my bank, which is located near the Marathon finish line, so I headed out in the afternoon. I knew the Marathon was taking place, so I brought by camera, just for fun.
By sheer bad timing, I happened to be almost exactly opposite the second bomb when it went off.
My bank is on the same side of Boylston Street where the bombs were, but barricades had been set up to prevent pedestrians and watchers from interfering with the runners.
If the barricades hadn't been there, I would have been across the street and virtually next to the second bomb when it detonated, and my life would have taken a very different tack.
As it was, (and although I didn't know it at the time) an 8-year-old child died in the second blast, and several people lost limbs there. Many others were injured.
I didn't find out what had happened until I got home; listened to the news, and really looked at the photos I'd taken, like this; again, literally across the street from where I was:
I escaped injury only though pure, dumb luck. It's a weird feeling.
Another part of what bothers me is my own reaction. I didn't panic, and that was good. I got out of the stampede, and tried to figure out what was happening, and where a safe place would be, rather than letting the herd decide for me. That's all for the good.
I also took some good pictures to document what happened --- I didn't see anyone else with a camera as close as I was to the second blast. And the photos were useful: the FBI even asked me for high-resolution copies of the lower-res photos I posted on this blog. Of course, I provided them with the photos. I was glad I could help in the investigation. That, too, is good.
But I didn't jump over the barricades to assist the injured.
I can make excuses: There were multiple barricades. No one on my side of the street was jumping over. There was plenty of help being given by unhurt people who had been across the street when the blasts went off. The nearest fire station was just down the street; professional help arrived almost immediately; literally before the smoke cleared. And so on.
But I didn't move to help. I just took pictures. And, in retrospect, that bothers me.
The upshot is that I've had trouble with reminders of the bombings in the past year. For example, in the weeks and months after, sirens were upsetting: My apartment at the time was on Boylston Street, near the Longwood Medical Center, and literally hundreds of ambulances, police, fire, bomb squad, FBI (etc etc etc) vehicles passed beneath my windows for hours after the blasts; and over the next few days. It was awful to hear.
I've had trouble with fireworks and celebratory explosions. I couldn't watch last year's July 4th fireworks, for example; and hearing Revolutionary-war re-enactors firing muskets at this year's St Patrick's day parade kind of freaked me out.
Anyway, I'm hoping to exorcise the final ghosts today. I'll head in shortly, and make my way to the exact spot where I was last year.
It should be an entirely different experience, this time. :)