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From triumph to tragedy: The Boston Marathon

The following post was written by Global Studies teacher Nick Martino following the Boston Bombings and originally appeared on his blog Defenders of Ma’at

Marathon Monday, as it is known in Boston, is a holiday that brings all of Boston out to the streets and stadiums to celebrate. People are celebrating the warm weather that is starting to show, the Boston Red Sox who always schedule a home game and the thousands of runners who rise to the challenge of completing the Boston Marathon. The 9th and 10th grade students and staff of THINK Global School, led by 11th graders Antonia B. and Anat A., joined forces with Jason Lynch of the Alzheimer’s Association to cheer on the 47 athletes who raised over $3,000 each toward the development and research of the disease. The students made signs in all of their native tongues and cheered on not only those running in the Alzheimer’s association’s purple track suit, but all runners from all walks of life. Students cheered and encouraged runners to keep going. They were met by smiles and warm thank you’s from all the runners as they passed. Some runners even stopped and took pictures with our students because they were so moved by the students efforts.

At about 3pm, when all runners had passed our location at Woodland, we got back on the T and headed home to Copley Square. While on the T heading inbound, we received word of two bombs that were detonated near the finish line at Copley Square. Dan Garvey, Lin Cheng and I were with the 9th and 10th grade students and had to start formulating a plan to get the kids back to the residence safe and sound. We had heard through Twitter that the T would stop at Fenway, and that the T’s would stop running completely until the entire area was secured. Knowing that there would be a lot of people held up at Fenway, we needed to keep the students close together, fill them in on what we knew so far and walk with some urgency to get back to the residence on Beacon Street. We decided to walk the students down to the river, away from the Marathon chaos.

Upon hearing the news and our plan, they had a few quick questions (that neither I nor the Boston Police Department had the answers to) and were ready to get home safely. They were really something special. We quickly made our way alongside the marathon route, amidst the sights of lights and the sounds of sirens all around. It was here that we saw runners being told by their families that there were explosions and watched them break down crying. We saw marathon runners so close to the end of their journey collapsing with disbelief as they heard that the race would be stopped, and then frantically start peering through the crowd to find family members. We took our first left so that we could get down to the river and home to Beacon. The students were very serious and focused in completing our objective, which was getting everyone home as quickly and safely as possible.

Once we got back to the residence, we met up with other staff members to make sure that everyone was accounted for and together. We still had our grade 11 students at the school, and they would hold up there until further notice. The staff waited at the residence until everyone was safe and secure, and then we had a meeting to plan our next school day and headed home. While on the walk home, I had some time to deconstruct some of the things that were in my head as I responded to text messages and voicemails from friends and loved ones. It is such a shame when any human being is killed, but what hurt the most about this particular event was the swing from triumph to tragedy. Marathons are rites of unification, in that they bring humans together to celebrate health and collectively overcome obstacles. This was very clear to us while cheering and being in awe of some of the athletes who were running to defeat cancer, to raise awareness about autism or to disprove the notion of a physical impairment being a disability. These triumphant runners were a symbol of overcoming adversity and soon became the victims. Not only were they a target of whoever committed these crimes, but so were their friends, families and fellow citizens that were cheering them across the finish line.

My goals for class today were pretty clear after watching the Bobby Kennedy speech, “The Mindless Menace of Violence.” I needed to get the kids thinking about humanity and the blame game that is about to ensue. I was excited and honored to hear some of the students discuss, analyze and understand the events yesterday at the Boston Marathon, and their work and reflections demonstrated a maturity well beyond their years.

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