One Year Later: Looking Back, Moving Forward

By Timmy Lagos
BU News Service

Timmy Lagos
Timmy Lagos

Boston — “Marathon Monday.” Those were some of the first words I heard when I began my freshman year at Boston University in the Fall of 2012. I had heard from my brother, who attends BU as well, and other upperclassmen about the fun and joy that is the third Monday in April, the Boston Marathon, or “Marathon Monday.”

No classes for the day, the school year is almost over, and the weather is finally starting to get warmer after a long winter. I couldn’t wait and expected it to be one of the most memorable days of the year. And it did turn out to be the most memorable day of the year for me, but for all the wrong reasons.

April 15, 2013. “Marathon Monday” had finally arrived and I was excited as ever to get down to Kenmore Square and later, Copley Square, to catch the race action for the first time. But, as excited as I was, the previous week had been a long one and there were no classes for the day so of course I had to sleep in.

I woke up around 12:30, got dressed, grabbed my sunglasses and made my way down to Kenmore Square on a beautiful spring day. The sun was shining and a nice breeze kept it from getting too hot. It was one of the nicest days I had experienced in a long time.

I got to Kenmore around 1 p.m., just as the bulk of the racers were making their way through, heading toward the finish line in Copley. I found an open spot along the fence and watched for a while as the runners, some wearing brightly colored outfits, hats and signs promoting their charities, passed through the sea of cheering and screaming fans, many of them friends and family.

After a while I got tired of standing in the same spot and thought about heading back to my dorm and enjoying the rest of the day with my roommates. I had been there for quite some time after all. But, I remembered hearing from many students that the finish line was one of the most exciting points of the race, so I decided to make the trek to Copley to catch some of the action there. Little did I, and the thousands of other fans already at the finish line, imagine what would occur in the next hour.

After making my through the crowds of people down there, I found an open spot a little ways from the finish line in front of the Marathon Sports store. I was a few rows back from the fence though, so I wanted to get a better view. I saw a pair of benches behind me that looked like they would give me a better view of the race, but there was a crowd of people surrounding them, so I didn’t want to try and get through them.

(Photo by Timmy Lagos)
(Photo by Timmy Lagos)

I ended up staying in my spot and just looking over the top of the crowd in front of me. I took a bunch of pictures of the crowd and the race and sent them to my friend back home and my dad. The last picture I sent was at 2:49 P.M. A minute later at 2:50 P.M., that beautiful spring day would turn into a day of tragedy.

Almost immediately after I sent that last picture to my dad, a deafening boom rang out all around me and a bright orange light flashed in front of my eyes. The force was so intense that it knocked me and numerous other spectators around me to the ground.

After a second or two I stood back up, wincing at the loud ringing in my ear and the pounding in my head. As I looked around, I could see a large cloud of smoke billowing up from the ground no more than 20-30 feet from where I stood, pieces of glass from broken store windows and other debris were falling from the air.

My immediate thought was that someone just shot off fireworks way too close to the crowd. That’s when I heard a second, just as loud and intense explosion, down the street.

Once I heard the second explosion, I knew that something was very wrong, that this wasn’t just a fireworks mishap, and that I had to get out of there as quickly as possible.

“Blood stained the sidewalk in spots right next to where I had been standing, and there were pictures of people lying without legs, or with other serious injuries directly next to where I was.”

I could hear people around me screaming and police, fire truck, and ambulance sirens off in the distance, but it all sounded muffled and far away because of the ringing in my ear and pain in my head.

I took off running back the way I came, down Boylston street and then down Exeter street, until I was a couple blocks from the chaos. I stopped and was able to catch my breath, still in shock and trying to process and figure out what in the world just happened.

The first person I called was my dad, and I could hear the shock and concern in his voice as I explained to him what had happened. There were two explosions; I didn’t know what caused them, and I was relatively OK, although my ear and head were still ringing and pounding. I could only hold the phone to my one good ear.

He told me to get as far away as possible and check back in with him once I was safe. I then called my friend, whom I was also sending the pictures to, and let him know what happened. He didn’t believe me at first. I told him to turn on the news. I could hear him pause, turn the TV on and then utter “Oh.” I didn’t blame him for not believing me, though. Even I didn’t believe that this had just happened.

As I made my way back toward campus through Kenmore Square, which was now filled with police blocking runners from going any further and down Commonwealth Avenue towards my dorm, I had an almost out-of-body feeling that is hard to explain.

I could barely hear anyone talking around me, partly because of the damage to my ear and partly from shock, and everything just seemed unreal, like a dream. The only time I spoke until I got back to my dorm was as I passed a kid on the street asking his friend if there was actually an explosion at the finish line, and I just said, “Yeah, there was” and kept walking.
I eventually made it back to my dorm and ended up going to the hospital to get my ear and head checked out and then back to my dorm to watch the news the rest of the night and try and piece together what had happened in the last 10 hours.

As pictures of the scenes of the two explosions emerged, I began to realize just how lucky I was to not be more seriously injured or even dead. The pair of benches that I had wanted to stand on, but didn’t, were right next to where the first bomb detonated and they were in pieces.

Blood stained the sidewalk in spots right next to where I had been standing, and there were pictures of people lying without legs, or with other serious injuries directly next to where I was.

I got chills throughout my body seeing all this and was in shock at how I made it out OK. Everything still felt unreal to me and I thought that any moment I’d wake up from this nightmare and be getting ready to go to Kenmore again. But it wasn’t a dream, and as hard as it was, life did go on.

I did my best to get back into the flow of my schoolwork and daily life and finish the year strong. It was a rough go for the first few weeks as even the slightest banging of a door or a book hitting the floor was enough to make me jump. But, with the support of my friends, family and teachers, I was able to, in a sense, move on and get back to living my life.

A year has passed now and I am getting ready to attend a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the bombings with my family.

Although I have moved on from this tragic experience, I most certainly have not forgotten. Moving on and forgetting are two completely different things that people sometimes confuse.

I may be back to living my normal life again, but I will never forget that day. There are still nights when I lie awake for hours just thinking about what happened that day and thanking God that I am still here.

I can’t even imagine what the families of those who died and were seriously injured have gone through in the past year. It’s been rough for me, someone who was injured, but not seriously.

I expect things to continue to get better as the days and years go on. The one-year anniversary will be emotional, but it will pass and life will have to go on again.

I believe these sleepless nights and moments where it’s all I can think about will become fewer and farther apart, but I’m not really sure.
One thing I am sure of though, is that April 15, 2013, changed my life forever. But as tragic and life changing as it was, it did teach me one thing: I will forever be Boston Strong.

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