Living in the city is dangerous. Making art is dangerous. International travel. Public events, public transportation, public gatherings.
Now marathon running and spectating.
On Sept 11, 2002 I walked home. A year after 9/11, and the most fearful experience of my life, I walked as much of the way I had “fled” the year before. I had to.
On 9/11, I was with two coworkers after our building was evacuated. We were a quarter mile south of the Trade Center. One, in her 60s, hadn’t walked more than a few blocks in years. She had just put on her high heel office shoes. We walked up the FDR, got her over the median, then up the ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge. It was dark, smoky, and we didn’t know what had happened. I thought we had been bombed. We heard the towers were down, but knew little else.
There was a moment when the smoke was thick as a wall. Impossible to see. Breathing was awful. I was worried my coworker might have a heart attack. We had to decide whether to go forward, get on the bridge, and over to Brooklyn. Or to backtrack. Like a movie, a screaming woman emerged from the smoke telling us not to get on the bridge. We had to choose. It seemed like combat.
I think of that moment often. We walked through the wall of debris, smoke, and ash to emerge into startling sunlight at the peak of the bridge. We looked like the powdered sugar people you saw on the news. Then down, around, into Brooklyn Heights. Another mile to home.
In 2002, the walk over the bridge was my way of claiming the city I love.
Now runners will have to do the same. All of us really. We know the risks of being out there, we know the immense pleasure and sense of community too.
With feet on the earth, the pavement, and the park trails, we connect to each other. Runners raise billions of dollars, largely for health oriented non-profits. On marathon day in any city, the locals are the banks and the runners a river of effort, pride, and celebration.
I know there are bad people out there. I try not to live in fear. I also know the sensation when danger is close, violence is real, and the stakes are high. Marathon running has been polarizing this year, and people in Boston and NY have lost so much. Now races, a place of respite and community, will have an edge of anxiety.
We will be out there. The talk about upcoming events, pace hopes, team gatherings is amping up. I hope my kids will watch many NY marathons and maybe run them some day. Hope to see you in the park, or hear about your training. Or meet you on a plane or train en route to a special race.
Blessings to Boston. Waves of love and anger for those who were killed and injured. We will be holding the runners and spectators, victims and victors, close and in our hearts for a long time.