Thursday, April 10, 2014

Boston Stronger

Read Charlotte Canelli's column in the April 10, 2014 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Many of us remember where and when we first learned that President Kennedy was assassinated, that the Twin Towers had been struck on September 11th and that kindergarteners were murdered in cold blood in the classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  We hold that coffee cup again, we shake our heads in disbelief, we stare at the television screen or the words on a computer monitor. We wonder how we will face the world we now know and we mourn for the lives of childhoods that have lost their innocence.

Most of us also remember where we were when we first heard the staggering announcement that there was a bombing at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Gerry and I were bicycling along Buzzard’s Bay on that bright and beautiful April 15th day.  It was our first day out after a chilly spring and our cycling was interrupted by calls from our children living in cities outside of Massachusetts. They wanted to be assured that we had not traveled into Boston that day.

We returned home that afternoon to follow news reports and waited out the week, glued to computer monitors and television screens that Friday when Watertown and the rest of the Boston metroplex “sheltered in place” – an unfamiliar expression to most of us. It was surreal and in Norwood – where life went on as it usually did – we couldn’t imagine the strange, eerie scene that was played out just miles to our north.

A year later, we’ve witnessed the courage and strength of survivors who are learning to walk and dance again.  We’ve heard and re-heard the stories of fear and we’ve remained angry at the two young men who managed to rain despair and terror at the finish line.

Not surprisingly, there are several books that have just hit the library shelves, or will in the next few weeks. Some memorialize the event for a world of readers.  Some are a cathartic end to a year of disbelief. And another is an amazing story of courage written by one survivor whose face none of us will ever forget.

“4:09:03: Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of the Runners” by Hal Higdon was released on April 1. Higdon is a contributing editor at Runner’s World.  The first bomb exploded at exactly four hours, nine minutes and 43 seconds into the race. The elite athletes from around the world, those men and women on foot and in wheelchairs, had crossed the finish line hours earlier. Higdon tells the story of the marathon through the experiences of runners – those caught in the tragic moments of the day. Much of the book depends on a solitary story told through social media - Facebook and blog posts of nearly 75 runners.

“26.2 Miles to Boston: A Journey Into the Heart of the Boston Marathon” (March 2014) by Michael Connelly is a revised and updated version of a similarly-titled book that was first published in 2003 as “26.2 Miles to Boston: the Boston Marathon Experience from Hopkinton to Copley Square." Connelly includes interviews he conducted with runners who ran in 2013 and those who plan to run in 2014. Four-time Boston Marathon winner, the iconic Bill Rodgers, wrote the foreword to the book.  

“Long Mile Home: Boston Under Attack, the City’s Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice” was released on February 13, 2014.  Award-winning reporters for the Boston Globe, Scott Hellman and Jenna Russell, include their original reports with interviews and stories of runners of the race, safety officers and marathon officials, spectators, survivors and victims. This book does not stop at the finish line or the events immediately afterward.  It continues through the fearful scenes of the Boston region through the end of that shocking week.

The 2013 documentary “Nova: Manhunt – Boston Bombers Technology’s role in Catching the Marathon Bombing Suspects” was produced by PBS within months of the marathon events.  It focuses on the manhunt, aided by technological tools and investigative techniques.  Some of the more intriguing forensics are explained – facial recognition, bomb-blast analysis, thermal imaging – those complex techniques most of us first became aware of during that long week waiting for the suspects to be identified.

Other books published in time for the anniversary of the tragedy include “The Boston Marathon: A Celebration of the World’s Premier Race” by Tom Derderian and Bill Rodgers, (April 1, 2014) includes a tribute to the victims of the 2013 bombing.  “If Not for the Perfect Stranger” edited by Diane Monteil (2014) focuses on the people who saved lives that day – spectators, runners,  first responders. In “Remember Boston: The Boston Marathon Bombing Memorials” (February 23, 2014) edited by Gail Cleare with photography by Steve Alexander, photographs of running shoes, messages flowers and stuffed animals tell the story of grief and shock. The memorials were relocated, but the items, left outdoors, were falling apart over time.  This book captures the words and images before they were preserved by the Boston Archives.

Perhaps the most widely anticipated story is that of survivor Jeff Bauman who was fatefully waiting at the finish line for his girlfriend, Erin Hurley, to finish the race.  One of the first shocking images we all saw on our computer monitor, front-page of the newspaper, and television screen was of Jeff in a wheelchair, severely injured and missing both legs. Jeff's book “Stronger” (April 8, 2014) tells an even more important story, though. On Tuesday, April 16th, Jeff contributed one of the most important clues to solving the crimes committed that day.  "Saw the guy. Looked right at me," were the words that the FBI was waiting for.  Bauman gave even more details as he recovered that day.

Not 45 days after the tragedy, Jeff Bauman threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park on May 28, 2013.  A year later, aided by prosthetic legs, Bauman will be signing copies of his book this month.  “Stronger” is the story of the 117th Boston Marathon from heartache to survival.

If you need assistance finding any of these items in the Minuteman Library catalog, please call or visit the library.