I'm sitting here collecting my thoughts after collecting photos from the two year anniversary of 4/15/13. I feel so many emotions swirling inside of me and I know in every fiber of my being that we are all healing -- together. Each of us is finding ways to experience the new normal that happens in the wake of a traumatic event and to transcend the event by finding new meaning and purpose in our lives.
Last year, the anniversary of 4/15/13 was a cold damp day. Survivors, families, and caregivers were invited to attend the Tribute at the Hynes Convention Center. People spoke and people listened. There was a community that gathered but not yet the community that now calls itself the marathon family. It was somber, deeply painful and the physical and emotional wounds were still gaping and palpable. I watched on line as if watching a movie, not realizing that I too am a survivor. If we were anywhere in the 26.2 radius of the Boston Marathon route on 4/15/13, we are survivors and in need of healing. Those of us closer to Ground Zero need to be exquisitely kind and tender with ourselves as we move through the healing process.
Yesterday the sun was shining, the temperatures in the upper 60's/low 70's and the sky was a brilliant Boston blue. The Massachusetts Resiliency Center in collaboration with Old South Church created a day of Resilience that was in concert with Mayor Walsh's One Boston Day; a day of service and practicing random acts of kindness. The marathon family of survivors gathered in front of the Forum and Marathon Sports to unveil the banners dedicated to lives lost on 4/15/13.
I was invited to the survivor's breakfast. I arrived early to Copley Square. As I walked out of the T onto Boylston Street, I felt anxiety overwhelm me and tears caught in my throat. I arrived in time for the unveiling of the banner in front of Marathon Sports .I stood in the sunshine ready to surf the waves of emotions that were going to be a part of the day.
After the unveiling, more survivors found each other. Carlos stood in the middle of a crowd sporting his white cowboy hat waving us all to the breakfast. A reporter introduced herself with a gentle, compassionate, warm greeting asking if she could talk with us. Scott, Annette and I exchanged glances and looked at the reporter wondering whether or not we should talk with her. She gently said it's up to you. We agreed.
Tovia Smith of NPR's All Things Considered interviewed us for at least 20 minutes as we stood on the not yet freshly painted finish line of the Boston Marathon. She asked thought provoking questions, many of which she did not have time to share in the final edition of the show, but ones which helped me to move forward in my healing.
She captured the essence of our message which is that we are a family now and as a family we find the strength to move forward. It takes time, talk and tears to heal as Dr. Crawford shared with us as we gathered last Wednesday at Old South Church. She asked if we felt we needed a nudge to move along in the healing process. I suggested that we do not need a nudge; we are healed as we flow on the river of love that has become a part of our community.
Tovia asked why we came back to the finish line...As I stood on the very spot where 6 years ago Monday, I did something that no one would have ever predicted I'd be able to do as a survivor of paralytic polio and coming out of a wheelchair 8 years ago to train for and run the Boston Marathon, I felt healing course through every fiber of my being. Not the shock of my nephew's suicide in March of 2011 or the blasts of 4/15/13 can destroy my resilience.
After the interview, I needed to set up my table to sell copies of "Journey Well" as part of my service for One Boston Day. I was delighted to sell 15 copies and donate the proceeds to the Resiliency Center. They are also going to have copies of my book for sale at the Center.
What a blessing to share the day with Dr. Ryan, my wonderful chiropractor and to see him engage with my survivor family. He is offering a complimentary treatment to survivors at his office.
Old South Church was buzzing with activity after survivors completed their service project. There was chair massage offered by Jeff Spratt of Spratt Muscular Therapy,
Reiki healing treatments by Julie Curreri, manicures, mat yoga, meditation. There were pet therapy dogs and a quiet safe space for survivors. Rather than everyone sitting and listening, everyone was talking, interacting and practicing good self-care.
At 1:45 the One Boston, A Service of Resiliency Began. Time ... tears ... talk. We wrote down what we had been burdened with and what we absorbed during the past two years on a sheet of paper that were then redistributed throughout all those gathered. We let go and lifted up each other's burdens.
Rather than being gathered in one place, survivors were part of commemorations and remembrances throughout the City and beyond. Survivors were at Fenway Park, City Hall and Old South Church. One family went to Florida and made a video to the survivor community and people gathered at 2:49pm to observe a moment of silence.
I finally was able to grieve and allow the anger to surface of what happened that day. During the moment of silence at 2:49pm, I wept from the bottom of my soul allowing the fear I felt that day to flow through me and to be lifted up by the Divine. Compassion, kindness, love and unity filled the room. As Nancy Taylor so eloquently said, "We are all written on each other's dance cards now....
From the Boston Globe:
For the past two years, the Rev. Nancy Taylor said during a “Service of Resiliency” at Old South Church, Bostonians have been in “a kind of intimate dance, a slow dance, but one in which we have held on to each other and refused to let each other go.”
Her message to mark the day: “Keep dancing. Because for two years now, we have been written on each other’s dance cards, and there’s no way of getting out of it. We are each other’s destiny.”
After the Service, we attended a reception. I ordinarily don't eat processed sugar but as Annette, Ninamary, Annette's dear friend Patty who is now a member of our family and I sat, I decided that I needed something sweet and thoroughly enjoyed a piece of the One Day cake that has the image of a dragonfly on it.
The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self realization; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life.
As one of the clergy said during the closing of yesterday's service, the world breaks us but for so many of us we are stronger in the broken places. And a powerful force of love flows from the hearts that are broken.
We are called to move forward in our healing journey and we are compelled to always remember to never forget what happened on 4/15/13.
Here is Scott sporting his Boston Strong tatoo:
And survivors celebrating being Boston Stronger at Fenway Park:
My latest book, "Journey Well" is now available on Amazon along with all of my inspirational books. 50% of book proceeds are donated to the Massachusetts Resiliency Center, a safe, welcoming space for survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing to heal and stay in touch with one another; a virtual hub for a widely dispersed community whose lives have been impacted by the tragic events of April 15th and the events that followed.
When terror struck the world's oldest and most beloved marathon on April 15, 2013, it was a defining moment in Mary McManus’ life and the lives of all those in Boston and around the world. It was her wake up call to return to the sport and community that have been medicine and a lifeline for her throughout her marathon of healing the late effects of paralytic polio and experiencing 9 years of domestic violence as a child and adolescent. Mary captures the essence of Boston Strong through her experience of the 2014 Boston Marathon and as she profiles the people who are Boston Stronger. Through her blog posts, poems and journal entries woven together with excerpts from her memoir, “Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility,” you will experience, through one woman’s journey of transformation and healing, that no matter what happens to us, we can all learn to journey well.