By Zack Peñalva, Sports Editor
“I walked right into the second bomb, they found me between the mailbox and the tree.” These are the words of Marc Fucarile, a Massachusetts native that was at the Boston Marathon in 2013. Fucarile would lose his leg instantly in the explosion and luckily escape the day with his life.
Marc’s story, along with many others was recorded as part of the WBUR Oral History Project through the Our Marathon Foundation. The project has worked in the years since the disaster gathering victims of the tragedy and creating an audio record of their experience.
Historically, the project does an invaluable service, creating a powerful collection of information that tells the story of a dark day in American history. But on a deeper level, the project states in its mission that it hopes that getting people to talk about their experiences will help in the healing process.
As the date for the 120-year-old event draws closer, there’s no denying that healing still needs to happen. Three years ago today, at approximately 2:49 p.m. two homemade bombs exploded near the finish line. Three people died in the attacks; eight-year old Martin Richard, 29-year old Krystle Campbell and graduate student Lingzi Lu. In the following search for the suspects, police officer Sean Collier was shot and killed by the bombers. In addition, 264 people were injured. Some lost hearing, some were scarred by flying pieces of shrapnel and some, like Marc Fucarile, lost their limbs due to damage from the bombs.
In the years since the attacks, the city and race committee have attempted to return the event to a sense of normalcy. The marathon’s website predicts a crowd of 1 million people to come out to watch the 30,000 racers. The famous “scream tunnel” at Wellesley College near the race’s halfway mark will still be packed with students bellowing out support for the runners.
“Nothing can defeat the heart of this city,” said Thomas Menino, then-mayor of Boston, at a church service in the days following the attacks. And nothing can defeat the Boston Marathon, an event that continued on even during the outbreak of two separate World Wars.
But a heavy cloud of caution now hangs over the race. Fox News reported that over 5,000 police officers would be on duty during the race, spread along all 26.2 miles of the course. On the website of the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), the group behind the marathon, spectators are encouraged to bring any personal items in clear plastic bags as opposed to backpacks or purses.
“Bandit” runners, a long-held tradition of people, mostly students who would run the course of the marathon despite not being officially registered, have also been subject to crackdown. Before 2014, bandits would be politely discouraged from running and were met with a rolling of eyes by officials. Now the BAA has gone as far as to issue a statement “reserving the right to remove any person from the course who is not displaying an official bib that has been assigned by the BAA.”
Sporting events have long been seen as a target for terrorists. Eleven Israelis were killed during the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Two were killed during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. During the string of attacks in Paris last November, an attempted attack on the Stade the France during an international soccer game could have killed many more. Fear around the next attack at a sporting event is at an all time high.
But fear is exactly what those that commit terror want. They sow it and hope that the resulting cynicism bends the will of others to their agenda. But that shouldn’t be allowed. Sports shouldn’t be transformed from something that can entertain and unite into a means of intimidation and division. For Marc Fucarile, what happened during the marathon three years ago didn’t become a source for fear. It showed him where he could look for strength. “I found my strength in people,” he said. “The strength in people, the passion people have to help others; it’s amazing.”