On Monday, April 15, when I first heard about the Boston Marathon bombings, I immediately turned on CBS News Special Report with Scott Pelley and started emailing relatives in Boston and other parts of the East Coast. Maureen Banks, a lifelong resident of Beantown and my first cousin, was slated to run in her first Boston Marathon that day. How was she? Were any other relatives running? Was my brother Pat running? One hundred thoughts rushed through my mind, most of them dreading the last. But the overriding question remained: Who could have done such a thing?
As I watched the news unfold, with extensive coverage of both bombs going off within 15 seconds of one another, I kept thinking how senseless and cowardly this act was. It left me mad, sad, angry and determined all at the same time. Mad that somebody had destroyed Patriots Day, one of Boston’s most celebratory days of the year. Sad that innocent people were either killed or maimed through no fault of their own. Angry that someone or some group could possibly get away with perpetrating such a heinous crime. And determined that I am going to bear-hug every one of my Boston cousins as hard I can when I see them in July at our family’s annual Hampton Beach retreat.
It was about 12 noon here in San Diego when I turned on the news. The bombs had gone off about 10 minutes prior. There was complete mayhem on Boylston Street near the finish line. I still had no idea if my cousin was okay, but as I checked my gmail account, I was getting periodic updates with good news.
“Trish finished prior to the explosions,” wrote one of my cousins, Michael Cellucci. “All of Paul and Nancy’s family are safe. Maureen had not finished and from what I understand, they are picking up those runners who had yet to finish. I have not heard yet about anyone speaking directly to Maureen.”
As it turns out, Tricia Banks, my second cousin and Maureen’s niece, was also running in the marathon. But contrary to Michael’s update, she had not finished the race. She was, in fact, just four-tenths of a mile (2,112 feet) from the finish line when the first bomb went off. Wow, what a day to debut in the country’s oldest marathon, I thought. As confirmations came in from other Boston relatives that Trish and Maureen were both alright, the tone of the ensuing emails started to get more philosophical.
“Thank goodness. Way to go Maureen and Trish,” my cousin Kevin Beaton from Idaho wrote. “The incident in Boston today makes you feel for all of the families worldwide whose countries and cities are constantly subject to bombings for one misguided cause or another that here in the United States we become desensitized to because it is reported almost daily by the press.”
I read Kevin’s email a couple of times before I shot off this rejoinder: “Kevin hit the nail on the head. It’s truly eye-opening that this has happened here. We do become desensitized to this level of violence from around the world because it always seems to happen somewhere else, in some other country with some other less-than-familiar factions at war.
“Aside from the heinous 9-11 tragedy, this senseless act reminds me of the bomb blast at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. They never did find the culprit(s) there, but hopefully the Boston Police will show their mettle and catch these lunatics shortly.”
About an hour later, my brother Tom Melia, while on business in Europe, responded with this observation from Baku, the largest city on the Caspian Sea: “Well said, Terry and Kevin. Indeed, the world is throwing some tricky dangerous things at us — and sometimes gets very close to home. Let’s see in the hours and days to come which kind of crazies did this. It is a reminder that we all live in a bigger world.”
But it wasn’t until April 22, seven days after the bombs went off, that I knew just how close my cousin Paul Banks and his family had come to meeting their maker. An email to all the cousins arrived that afternoon from Paul describing just how incredibly close to danger his immediate family was on that dreadful day. Here’s what he wrote:
“Crazy week. As you know, Tricia and Maureen were running in the marathon. Nancy, Tommy, Jenny and I were at the finish line when the bombs went off. We were all unintentionally separated at the time of the bombs. It is a miracle that none of us were hurt. Tommy was standing next to the scissors lift when the first bomb went off behind him (about 25 feet away). Nancy had just walked past the first bomb. I am attaching some pictures we found of Tommy. He was looking for Nancy amongst the casualties on the ground then he found me. I can’t find myself in the pictures, however I was near the traffic lights behind him. Nancy had moved forward past the finish line (and first bomb) and was standing in between the two bombs when they went off. Jenny was outside of Uno’s on the other side of second bomb.
“Tommy and I met up after 20 minutes. Jenny got a call through to me after 25 minutes. Nancy got a call through after 35 minutes. Tricia was stopped 0.4 tenths of a mile from the finish line. Maureen was at mile 21. We had some loved ones watching over us. Thank you all for your concerns.”
I responded: “Incredible set of circumstances, Paul. The Banks contingent really did have a few guardian angels working OT that day. Blessed says it all.”
Author’s bio: Terry Melia is a freelance sports writer living in San Diego.