On April 15, a number of Saint Anselm runners and "lifeguards" found themselves stuck in Boston not knowing what to do. The following is a first-hand account from Allyn Doyle '13, as she describes the moments leading up to the bombings and the role she played in getting everyone home safely.
As the first of our Anselmian runners powered up Heartbreak Hill, us “lifeguards” (a bandana-wearing group of cross country runners who jump in at Mile 20 if Saint Anselm marathoners are struggling) began to wonder if were even necessary on such a beautiful day. Everyone seemed to have a running buddy and everyone seemed to be doing great. But, as runners, our eagerness to move got the best of us and we jumped in one-by-one. We are runners after all. I watched as my teammates excitedly weaved in with the marathoners and waited until I thought I could be useful. Eventually, I jumped in with Jimmy Doogan, a fellow senior whose stride was still strong and whose determination to finish could be felt by anyone within a fifty-yard parameter. Jimmy didn’t need me but I was getting antsy and decided to go anyway. By Mile 25, I was glad I joined him and quickly discovered how fitting my title as a lifeguard really was.
As we jogged along, we slowly started to get the feeling that something wasn’t right. When we approached Mile 24, I recall seeing a man frantically trying to call his son who he said was at the finish line. At the time, I had no idea why that was important. So we ran. At Mile 24, we had heard a rumor of bombs going off, but no one was stopping us. As a line of 10 police cruisers flew by us, phone calls and text messages started pouring in. Just before cell service was cut, my brother managed to get through and told me what had happened. At that moment, I was sure of two things: first, that my role as a lifeguard just became very real, and second, that I needed to get in touch with my dad, the Chief of Police in Merrimack, New Hampshire as soon as possible. He would have the information and emergency response training I would need to help me guide these runners home.
Jimmy and I were stopped with the rest of the runners about a half mile away from the finish line and were told, well…nothing. At this point, cell phone service had been cut and I had no way of communicating with anyone. As I jumped on one barrier and Jimmy on another (yes, after having run 25 miles…I’m still in shock), we flagged down and grouped together as many Saint Anselm runners as we could. We managed to gather a group of about 8 or 9 and I looked again to my phone as my dad, via iMessage, directed me to stay in the middle of the road, avoid trash cans, and that the men he knew on the Boston police force told him that I needed to get out of Boston immediately. I had no idea why I was supposed to be away from the edges of the road because we still weren’t sure what had happened at the finish line. With these instructions to guide us and with no other information, we began walking.
As we walked, our frustration grew. We were frustrated that we had no information, that we had no cell service, and that we had no way of knowing if our friends were okay. I had never felt more disconnected and more unsure of what to do. I knew I wanted to get the marathoners someplace warm where they could sit down and maybe get something to eat. I wanted to get them away but I truly didn’t know how far away was far enough. I looked back at my group of marathoners and felt sick as they shivered in the trash bags so many generous Bostonians offered them from out of their houses. I just wanted to make sure they were safe and I just wanted to have some idea about where to go. Thankfully, we crossed paths with another group of Saint Anselm runners, one of whom knew Boston well and led us to the student center at Northeastern where I was finally able to write down who I had with me, coordinate with the group that was stuck at Boston College, and get a call through to our own Coach Paul Finn. From Northeastern, we were able to catch our bus, pick up the group at BC and head back to campus.
The bus ride back was filled with a mixture of emotions. Some people were clearly exhausted but relieved while others still looked like they were on edge and shaky. Undoubtedly, however, there was not one person on that bus who wanted anything more than to be back on campus at Saint Anselm College. All day, we knew how worried everyone was on campus and it killed us that were unable to contact the school to let them know we were okay. As hard as it was in Boston, I cannot imagine having been on campus feeling completely helpless as the day unfolded.
When the bus pulled into campus and we saw the crowd, I was reminded of why I came here and why it is going to be so hard to leave. This campus is my home and these people are my family. The love and support in that crowd is something I will never forget. As I embraced classmates, professors, and administrators, I couldn’t even conjure up the words I needed to express how grateful I was to be home and to have such incredible people in my life. All of us in Boston were comforted by the fact that this school responded with such compassion and concern for our well-being. The day was a tragedy, but the response of the greater Boston community and Saint Anselm in particular embody exactly what it means to be an Anselmian: to care for each other as we care for our family, to let love outshine hate, and to continue to run because only then can anger be left behind.