One Year Later: Finishing the Race
Scott Yerrick’s eyes swelled. Full of emotion, he struggled to find the words to describe what it meant to be back in Boston on Marathon Monday.
Yerrick and his wife, Kay, were waiting in Kenmore Square at the corner of Commonwealth Ave. and Brookline Ave. to watch their son pass by the 25-mile marker. Chad Yerrick, like so many others, didn’t get to finish the marathon a year ago, when it was halted by two bombs going off on Boylston Street near the finish line.
“Our son is running. He ran last year also,” said Scott Yerrick, his voice trailing. “I’m getting emotional…It’s pretty cool. He didn’t get to finish last year. This year he’s going to finish.”
Chad Yerrick knew right away that he would return this year to finish what he started. And while it took some convincing, his parents knew they would be back too.
“Originally, I wasn’t that enthused about him coming back,” said Kay Yerrick. “On the mother’s part [there was some doubt]. Not on his though. As soon as he decided, it was like if he’s going we’re going. We felt like we had to – and we wanted to. We’ve been planning on it for a year. It’s awesome.”
The Yerrick’s and an estimated one million others crammed the streets along the 26.2 mile course a year after the attacks that killed three, injured over 250, and shook a city and region to its core. Boston and all of New England came together Monday in a massive, emotional showing of defiance.
Nothing was going to stop Boston from enjoying what many consider to be the city’s greatest day of the year. And while there was some concern that the event would never be the same – and in certain ways it never will be – this year’s Marathon Monday turned out to be the celebration it always has been.
The customary block-party atmosphere filled the route. Only a few wispy clouds roamed over head in Kenmore Square, where Katy Perry’s “California Girls” was among the tunes blasting out of the Uno Bar and Grill. The line to get into the restaurant snaked down the sidewalk and into the street. An occasional roar from Fenway Park could be heard in the distance. Though they were tough to make out over the cowbells and screams of encouragement from those leaning against the barricades, cheering on the nearly 33,000 runners.
“Way to go, you’re almost there, brother,” said a man in an orange shirt. “Keep it going. Only one mile to go.”
It is that kind of support that has always made the Boston Marathon special. This year, the support was more passionate than ever. Decked out in blue and yellow “Boston Strong” t-shirts and Boston sports paraphernalia, many who lined the route felt it was essential to attend this year’s race and not be fearful after the bombings.
“Since what happened last year, I thought this year was the year to come out for it,” said LeAnn Whittermore, of Waltham, who was attending the race for the first time.
“Last year obviously effected us all,” added John Cahill, of Medford, also taking in his first Boston Marathon. “I wanted to come down and support the victims from last year and experience it. There’s going to be a lot of people and there’s going to be a lot of emotion. I wanted to come down and show my support and get a chance to be a part of history.”
Fianna Walsh, of Ipswich, saw the Marathon as a way of healing.
“I think it’s such a great cause to come out and support the runners, and the runners supporting everything that happened last year,” she said. “Just like [Red Sox outfielder] Jonny Gomes said, it’s easier to help heal than to actually heal. That’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to show the support and [that] we’re Boston Strong. You can’t break us down.”
Though many felt the need to attend this year’s Marathon as a show of support and sense of pride for Boston, some were hesitant to take part, feeling that there was the potential for another attack.
“I don’t want to go to the marathon this year,” said Mike D’Alleva, of Wilmington, a few days prior to the event. “I think the possibility for there to be another bombing at this year’s marathon has heightened because Boston has made such a strong statement to say, ‘Hey, we are Boston Strong. Nothing can break us’.
“That statement has been heard pretty much worldwide. I think that statement also brings a threat of another potential attack. When you say you are the strongest, someone is always going to try and prove that they are stronger than you.”
D’Alleva, who was working less than a mile from the finish line a year ago, said he did not feel the need to attend the race just to make a statement.
“It’s not that I am afraid to go to the marathon,” said D’Alleva, who has attended the event in the past. “I’m not willing to take the risk of going just to make a statement that says we are Boston Strong and you can’t break us. I think it’s great how people came together and showed their love for the city, but is it really worth going just to make a statement?”
Whittermore admitted to feeling some apprehension the night before the Marathon, but it didn’t stop her from heading into the city to enjoy the day.
“I had a nightmare last night about it,” said Whittermore. “But I’m with my parents and this is probably the safest place to be right now.”
Cahill, on the other hand, had no hesitation, saying that fear is exactly what the bombers wanted to inflict.
“I don’t think there was,” he said. “If you think twice about it and you start to really think and kind of hold back, then you’re just letting them [the bombers] win. You come back out here and you show your support. This is a strong city. We all come out, we all rally around each other. But, no, there wasn’t any second thoughts on this.”
There was reason to feel safe. Security was at an all-time high for this year’s Marathon in response to the 2013 attacks. Police officials said that 3,500 officers would be manning the crowd, nearly double the amount from last year. Over 100 cameras were installed along the Boston portion of the route and while backpacks and other large bags were not banned, police discouraged their use.
In Kenmore Square, the increased security was evident. Helicopters swarmed over head and police officers with binoculars kept watch over the area from the roof of the Hotel Buckminster. Dozens of other officers lined either side of the barricades, including some from Norwood and Northeastern University, who were on bikes. Security checkpoints were also set up outside the Kenmore green line stop and across Brookline Ave., before entering Kenmore Square. All bags were required to be searched and had an “inspected” band placed on them.
But the exhaustive security did not seem to be a problem for those in the crowd.
“It’s huge, wicked noticeable,” said Walsh boasting her best Boston accent. “It’s a reminder of last year. It’s a comfort knowing that they’re all here to keep everybody safe. I think that it’s necessary. There’s a lot of nervous people out in the crowd today that are out here to support the runners and support the cause.
“I think that it’s perfect having all the security out here checking bags and everything.”
“This is my first time coming to a Boston Marathon, so I can’t really compare to any other year,” added Cahill, who was sporting a blue Dustin Pedroia jersey. “But I think they’re doing a good job. I just came over from Fenway and they’ve got checkpoints set up, so they’re taking it seriously. I think they’re doing a good job.”
The Yerrick’s thought security was tight at last year’s race, even before the bombings, but they noticed the difference this year.
“Security is more evident. And we were impressed last year with the security,” said Scott Yerrick. “But it’s even more so [this year]. It’s like it’s doubled. We notice the helicopters in the air and all that. You notice there’s a lot more security. It makes you feel a lot safer too.”
Despite the heavy security and other subtle reminders of the heartbreak of last year’s tragedy, Monday was a return to normalcy. All that Patriots Day stands for was taken away last year. Some felt it would never be the same again.
But, on Monday, Boston proved that theory wrong.
For 118 years, the third Monday in April has been Boston’s showcase, the day the world gets to witness the city at its best. Hundreds of thousands line the streets from Hopkinton to Heartbreak Hill, from Framingham to the Finish Line to support their loved ones and plain old strangers. The Red Sox play morning baseball.
“Boston’s a great town,” said Cahill. “I’m very proud to be from this area. It’s something you don’t really get to experience – this camaraderie – anywhere else.”
Even outsiders like Scott Yerrick could admit that.
“[Boston has] become a little bit of a part of what we are.”