When we witness these national tragedies, the human tendency is to find a way to connect to the story. Animals don’t do this. The other gazelles don’t try to put themselves in the shoes of the one who had just gotten eaten. Nope. They just run like hell and look for their next meal.
But we humans…we need to empathize. We need to try to feel what other people are feelings so that we process the sorrow in some way. After the movie theater shooting in Aurora, I couldn’t help thinking about all of the midnight movies I went to with E over the years, and imagining us crouched down, hiding from a shooter. After Newtown I saw the face of my daughter and her classmates being ushered to safety by their teachers. And then yesterday…yesterday it just seemed too real.
I’ve been running for two years now and my family has been waiting for me at dozens of finish lines. But I’ve been thinking about my December marathon the most. That day, Donnie was running as well and he had crossed the finish line over an hour before I had. So…my kids…they were at the finish line…alone. The three loves of my life sitting there in one place, cheering for me as I finished my race.
There’s a couple of videos from yesterday that were shot from the point of view of the finish line. Several “official” videos that they do for big races to make sure they capture everyone’s finish. You see the runners approach the line, some of them dragging, some sprinting – a phenomena every racer has experienced. You’re either one or the other. You either left it all out on the course, or you saved some for the end. Many of them are checking their watches for their official time (because a race that large, few actually start when the clock starts) and several are scanning the crowds for their loved ones. I have been every single one of those runners. I have done all of those things as I approach the finish line.
And then you see the explosion, and the confusion, and the fear. And I see the face of my three kids, standing by the finishing chute in December, screaming “GOOOOOO MOMMMMM!” as I drug myself to the smiling faces who were giving me my medals. And then I remember searching the crowds for them, and I wonder how many of those families yesterday struggled to find each other in the chaos, and imagined the worse.
I remember finding them…and seeing that they had brought me donuts. E had stopped by Krispy Kreme on the way to the finish line, had gotten a 6-pack of donuts, some for them, but most for me. I remember how amazingly awesome that was, the perfect finish line gift for me, the woman who made her wedding cake out of Krispy Kreme donuts. They hugged me and they followed me inside while I rested, ate donuts, and waited to find Donnie.
And every moment from that day is now etched in my memory. Before yesterday it was just a nice memory of a good day that would probably fade with time. But now? I can’t help but look at every second of that day as a blessing. I now wish I could see their faces more clearly as they cheered for me to finish. I wish I had hugged them more to give them thanks for being there. I wish I had congratulated more of my friends. I hope I never forget the pride of having them there to see me accomplish this challenge.
I guess that’s where we always find ourselves after these tragedies. Grateful for the time we have with our loved ones. Vowing to appreciate them more. Pledging to spread more kindness in case those around us suffer things we are not aware of.
And this is where I find myself again. Just like after Aurora. After Newtown. I’m feeling very grateful and blessed for my running community, my happy and healthy life, my happy and healthy husband, and for my children…who brought me cheers, smiles, and donuts at the finish line of my marathon in December.