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The Citizen

Run with Endurance

By Nathan Finney and Billy Pope, MC/MPA’13

As my hands were burning from the hot dishwater and my eyes filled with tears listening to a nation’s leader console his people, I was also laughing out loud at a more base, yet more real form of healing.

Over curt words of profanity and good-natured inter-service rivalry, those affected by a traumatic event were able to find a moment of peace.  While someone from the outside would view this exchange via text message in mild shock, it allowed us to understand that, despite how it feels inside our own heads, we are not alone.  While listening to words of scripture and images of beauty from a president, over text we jointly grappled with memories of life and death, danger and family.  That Thursday night we continued an emotional race of endurance that began at 1450 hours on Monday, April 15 – Patriot’s Day.

Sarah Haggard, wife of Marcus Haggard (MPP’14), was at the Finish Line Monday with the couple’s two daughters and took this photo. The family left before the explosions

Sarah Haggard, wife of Marcus Haggard (MPP’14), was at the Finish Line Monday with the couple’s two daughters and took this photo. The family left before the explosions

No one began that day knowing that a physical race of endurance would become such an emotional one. Early that morning, a perfect spring day, we remember sipping on Gatorade and preparing our shoes for the many miles ahead, heart filled with nervousness and excitement. We looked ahead to mile 16 where we would see our families in a welcome respite from watching our feet to make sure they were still moving. We remember waiting in the last corral of the race, slowly building up steam to the starting line.

Little did we know that we would not cross the iconic line painted on Boylston Street that signifies the end of America’s most famous race. Little did we know that at 25.98 miles, mere moments before my fellow runners and we should have been sharing that great moment with my wife and children, my great friends and the open-hearted men and women of Boston, we were instead scrambling to determine the fate of my family and hoping the explosions were some sort of accident. Instead of hugging us at the finish line, our families were running for cover and our friends were breaking down barricades to allow the first responders to access the injured.

Like the rest of Boston, we all spent the next few days accepting and coping with the shock of this horrific act. We ran memorial runs to show our support and pride in Boston.  Feelings of hopelessness began to wane, replaced by those of determination. We attended the wonderful memorial service in which the President quoted scripture and resiliency. We sought the perfect state of grace he so eloquently spoke of.

It may seem strange that, instead of religious services or counseling sessions, we found that grace on our smartphones. Like so many times in Iraq and Afghanistan, I saw the healing of internal wounds through needling humor and the comfort of those who truly understand. An odd comfort accompanies the camaraderie of those who really know what the bombs in Boston did to solidify the human spirit. 

Nathan Finney was photographed by the Associated Press with his daughter Mckenna at the Interfaith Service on Thursday.

What this late night text session told me of the human spirit encouraged me. We knew there were people we could reach out to. We knew that, just like the marathon, we could not take on this emotional race of endurance alone. We need cheerleaders, people to give us refreshment, and most of all friends to run along beside us. Also like the marathon, we know it will not be a short journey. Unlike the 117th Boston Marathon, we will cross this finish line. By next year we will be stronger and even more ready for the race that is set before us.Next year at the finish line!