Early Friday morning, Kate Hehn ‘14 woke up in her McInnes apartment, excited for the upcoming weekend. At 8 a.m. she packed up her Ford Taurus, proudly displaying a bumper sticker saying “26.2 Boston Marathon.” After safely arriving at her home in Chelmsford, Mass., she could not wait to head to Boston for Marathon Monday. “The whole weekend was awesome. It was the best weekend ever,” Hehn said, “And then, this happened.”
On Tuesday afternoon, President Jeffrey P. von Arx sent out a school-wide email announcing that one of the victims is a relative of a Fairfield University community member. He stated, “These tragedies so close to home remind us of how fortunate we are to live and work together within a community of compassion and solidarity.”
A Prayer Service for Healing and Hope was held in Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola on Tuesday night and on Wednesday afternoon there was also a Mass to honor the victims of the bombings.
In addition to the Fairfield family that was directly affected, there were numerous students and alumni at the event as both spectators and volunteers.
Hehn has never missed a Boston Marathon. It has been a main event for her family throughout her life. With her grandfather living four houses from the starting line, her dad and uncle ran the marathon for years. This year was Hehn’s sister Cara’s seventh consecutive year racing. “It’s just a huge thing in my family, and it’s weird to think that now it’s definitely never going to be the same,” commented Hehn.
Assistant Vice President and Boston native James Fitzpatrick ‘70 explained that he was originally supposed to be in Boston for the Red Sox game on Monday. Because his plans fell through, he was still on campus when the bombing occurred. “With so many of our students and alumni from Massachusetts, you realize what a special day Patriots Day is,” said Fitzpatrick. “It is the most magical day in the commonwealth.”
On Friday afternoon, Hehn and her dad picked up her sister at Logan International Airport, where signs welcomed all of the runners. Saturday’s exposition at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center on Boylston Street was a fun-filled event, according to Hehn, where the runners and spectators prepared and celebrated the upcoming race.
Fitzpatrick explained the marathon, saying, “People in Massachusetts really don’t get involved in who wins. It’s the majesty and excitement of the runners of all types and ages, in wheelchairs and crutches, and veterans, people running to raise money. It just covers the spectrum as to why people are in Boston for the day.”
On a chilly but sunny Marathon Monday morning, 27,000 runners gathered in Hopkinton, Mass. to begin the marathon. “It was a perfect running weather,” said Hehn. After seeing her sister off at the starting line, the Hehn family waited for her in Wellesley, the halfway point.
Still filled with excitement, they refreshed her with some Gatorade and cheered her on as she continued on her way. Next, the family headed to Boston College at mile 21. Hehn’s sister refused to stop at this point and pushed on to finish the last five miles. “Cara saw us before we saw her, and she was just waving her arms and came over to us. She was so excited,” said Hehn.
The last point where the Hehn family cheered for their runner is near the finish. Normally, the Hehn family parks in the Copley parking lot; however, this year, they parked down the street. While Hehn and her mother rushed to congratulate her sister, her dad searched for a parking space.
At the corner of Hereford and Boylston streets, just before the final stretch, Hehn explained that her family moved through the crowd to the final waiting area to find her sister and celebrate her successful time. When they found her about 15 minutes after she finished, they headed off to lunch.
All of sudden, Hehn heard a terrifying noise. “It sounded like a building falling down or like a huge construction crane falling, and everyone in the street … stopped and looked at each other.”
She continued, “Everyone knew what everyone else was thinking, but no one said anything.”
Startled and somewhat on edge, Hehn and her family continued walking down Stuart Street. “It was a little bit eerie. Then, a second one went off and I looked at my dad,” Hehn explained. “I said to him, ‘Dad, that was kind of scary. Do you think that was …’ and I didn’t even have to finish my sentence. I just saw the look on his face.”
According to Hehn, everyone looked up, searching for a falling building or smoke. Paramedics and police rushed to the scene. Hehn and her family went into Copley. “No one really knew what was happening at this time.”
Meanwhile, about five miles from the finish line, Campus Minister Jocelyn E. Collen ’06 was waiting for her cousin and his wife to rejoin her after completing the race. Collen’s relative finished the marathon four minutes before the bombs went off. “Thank God they are both okay. But it felt like September 11, 2001, all over again,” stated Collen.
Another Fairfield student, Amanda Green ’14, was trying to contact her brother and father, a Boston police officer. “My dad and brother were not together at the time so I panicked because nobody heard from him. It was scary not knowing if my dad had been hurt in any way,” said Green. “Luckily, an hour later, my mom heard from him to know he was safe, and later on I was able to talk to him myself. I’m so relieved that my family did not get hurt, but I am still in shock with what happened. … It’s unbelievable that someone would do something like that.”
Senior Matt Boley was at the 26-mile mark when the bombing occurred. “My thoughts and love go out to those who lost their lives, those who were injured, their families, the city of Boston and all of those affected by yesterday’s tragedy,” Boley said. “I’ve got my sights set on running Boston 2014, and I know I will not be alone in the pursuit of that goal.”
As Hehn and her family left Copley, she wondered to herself, “Why is everyone acting so calm?” They navigated out of Copley, returned to their car and immediately turned on the radio. “Cara and I were just in disbelief in the back of the car,” she said.
When she returned home, Hehn received text messages and phone calls from family members, friends and even acquaintances. Tearing up, Hehn said, “I feel so blessed that Cara finished and that we were able to find her. The timing was just a gift from God that we were okay. It was really scary.”
Frank Spano, Graduate Assistant Athletic Trainer, stated, “As a Northeastern alumni and someone who called Boston ‘home’ for five years, it was both shocking and saddening to see the news coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. It really serves as a reality check that life is short, and therefore, one should try to appreciate and enjoy life every day.”
Junior Carolyn Kosewski lives outside of Boston and has dreamt of running the marathon since childhood. Despite the bombings, she still plans on pursuing her dream. “I know crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon is a runner’s dream. One of the most important days in so many people’s lives was turned into a day of terror,” Kosewski said. “As someone who has aspired to qualify for the race since I was young, I am so heartbroken.”
Hehn agreed, saying, “It’s hard because the marathon means more to me and my sister than anything else … We’ve never missed one our whole entire lives. Now, Marathon Monday is never going to be the same. ”