Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Marathon Monday

Hi friends,
I was able to take some time yesterday to write about the events on Monday. I am more thankful to be back to work and a regular routine than you could imagine. Life is precious and can be gone in the blink of an eye. Here's my story of Marathon Monday.

My Jehovah-Sabaoth,
As your story of love and protection of over my life on April 15 is read by lots, I pray that your miracles of work shine brightly in this story.  So bright that those that don’t know you as savior (SAVIOR!) will, and those who have set you aside will start a new relationship with you.  You are the Lord who rules the angels, the sun, the Heavens… and the street corner of Boylston and Hereford in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 

We left from Houston to Boston on Saturday and when we arrived, we were greeted with cool weather and buzzing streets filled with the famous blues and yellows.  We loved coming. It is the most famous, most beloved, most historical, most prestigious of all races. The Super Bowl or World Series of marathons. Except this event wasn’t team vs. is a camaraderie of ‘friends’ all over the world who run together to add to the history, the richness, the joy of The Boston Marathon. 

“Friends” because no matter who dad is running with, you too, would soon become friends…

On April 15th at 4:30 am, dad rustled around the hotel room looking for his phone to check the weather. “Perfect” he whispered with his bifocals on and feet on the ground ready to start the getting-dressed-for-a-marathon process that takes about 2 hours…
I put my coat on and go down to get breakfast and coffee for us, that he had tried the day before to make sure it was gonna be good on his stomach for the race…Everything down to shoelaces is a much thought out process.

“Singlet or no singlet, hat or visor, new shoes, or lucky green shoes, PR today or just enjoy the race?”….these were all very serious questions of the morning.
(a PR for him would be 3:45, and in his wave start….finish is 4 hours after…the exact time the first bomb went the finish line)

6:50 am we start downstairs to meet up with fellow runners to catch the bus that takes the runners out to Hopkington.  I take pictures of dad with his running buddies. He is so thankful for a cool, clear morning. He is thankful to be healthy enough to run this race. I love the energy and the experience.

I eat breakfast with a family whose daughter is running for the first time and it eases their concerns when we plan out where the best places were to see along the course.  Take the green-line subway to Heartbreak Hill or go where dad knows I’ll be? Go where he knows I’ll be…

I pack up our hotel room because check-out was after the race would be over. Take the bags to the valet so they can hold them until we are back. Keep my room key so that I can come back later this afternoon to the business office to print out our boarding passes.

9:30 am I walk down Boylston (on the side of the bombings) to Starbucks. (where the second bomb went off) get my upside-down caramel macchiato and go outside and look up to the skies, it was such a beautiful morning. The buildings are so architecturally beautiful in Boston.  I take pictures. There wasn’t a crowd gathered at the finish line yet, the race hadn’t even started and I knew that it was a coveted place to be….I thought about staying there to have a front row position to see the WINNERS OF THE 2013 BOSTON MARATHON! Na, I thought, dad won’t know I’m here. This isn’t where we planned on me being. So I walked to the corner of Commonwealth and Hereford. And I found the most awesome spot. On top of a hill, grassy area, in the sun.  I cheered as the front runners came through. Sent video footage to my friends and family. I love watching athletes at work. I was amazed. After they passed by, I had about 2 hours before my dad’s wave was coming to that spot, so I headed off to grab some lunch at a little local bookstore/restaurant.  Trident Booksellers and CafĂ©. I charged my phone and warmed up with some lunch and loved roaming around in the books.

At 1:30 I headed out to my spot where dad knew I would be. On the corner of Commonwealth and Hereford.

As I type this part of the story, my heart is beating faster and tears are coming on, because I know what’s coming….

I was scheduled to receive messages along the course to know what pace dad was doing. He passed the halfway mark RIGHT ON PACE! I was so excited for him! It was a perfect day to PR! He comes running up the last hill and I spot him! Red visor, orange singlet, bright green shoes! He looks great! BIG smiles, high fives!


My eyes follow him as he courageously runs up Hereford street and makes the corner onto Boylston. I am so proud!

A minute after he turns the corner, I hear it. (this is a vision that keeps repeating)
Its deafening.
A boom I thought was confetti, or a cannon, or construction, or thunder, or the roar of a crowd at Fenway Park.

Before I saw the smoke coming over the buildings, had to have been 100 police with shields over their faces, machine guns drawn, come running down the streets.
“You must leave the area! It is not safe here! Grab your belongings and leave the area!”
“Ummmm, what did he say?”

BOOM!! A second bomb explodes.
Screams, sirens, helicopters, yelling police, runners crying in confusion off of the course….

My heart sank into the pit of my stomach because I knew. I could see where the smoke was coming, and I knew. I knew that was the exact location where my dad was.  And, I never received the confirmation, automated text that had crossed the finish line. In fact, the athlete tracker shows his last known area in the exact spot of the second bomb.

Police officers were shoulder-to-shoulder pushing the spectators into an alleyway. My eyes couldn’t stop searching.
Searching. If I could only get a glimpse of the red visor and orange singlet and bright green shoes. I could hear myself breathing hard, short, desperate breaths. I could never catch my breath.  My eyes squinted so that I could see better through the smoke. And I tried to block out the yelling of police officers so that maybe I could hear dad yelling for me.
Still searching. So desperate.

Ashley Crowder calls.
“Leah, are you ok?”
I can’t remember what I said. I was so desperate.
Dropped phone call after dropped phone call.

“Maam, you must stay here!  You can not go out there, its very dangerous.”
“I know, sir, but I know my dad is in that smoke. I know he is.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you go out of this alley, its not safe, there may be more bombs in the area.”

An hour later they moved us to Fenway park. They told us it wasn’t safe to be outside. We didn’t know if the bombs were coming from the air or buildings. They also told us that the suspect could still be in the crowds.

There isn’t a word to describe how I felt. Thinking that my dad is dead or seriously injured or that another bomb could go off right where I was standing. No words, just searching and trying to breathe.  I had to pull up my scarf over my nose and mouth because the smell of gas and smoke was so strong.  I kept my pink hat on hoping that it would catch dad’s eye…if he was close by.  Please be close by.

I had to get out of Fenway Park. I had been inside the park for 2 hours.  2 hours with crazy people and police with machine guns. And no cell phone service. So I decided to leave. I walked out and a policeman tried to stop me again. Through teary eyes and a shaky voice I said, “I need to find my dad. He was in that explosion. I know it. I’ve calculated the timing in my head over and over and...”  This policeman told me that “they were taking the injured to Mass Blah Blah Blah Hospital. And the directions are this way…”  I was not trying to block out his words, but I was trying to block out his words...My head knew that dad was in the Blah Blah hospital, but my heart wouldn’t hear of it. So I started walking towards the Blah blah hospital.
And my phone rings. (my phone rings!) It was my uncle in Africa. He tells me that the news was reporting that no runners were seriously injured! This was such a glimmer of hope for me. Hope, that just maybe he was ok.  The phone call never cuts out as it had when Ashley called. Or when Duncan called.

My journey to the hospital turned into a hope that maybe he made his way to the hotel instead. At this point, I had been gone for 3 hours. And I was 5 miles away from Commonwealth and Hereford Street.

I couldn’t even remember the name of our hotel. Park Place? No, Boston Place? Parkland?

So I stopped a policeman and asked, “Can you please help me? Please? I need to find my dad. What is the name of the hotel next to the Boston Gardens?”
The policeman explained to me through dark sunglasses that all of the hotels were on lockdown. Anyone inside, had to go to their rooms and no one from outside could go in…He said that there were rumors that a bomb was found inside a hotel by the finish line…

Breathe deep and keep searching.

I remembered that I had kept my room key and I got it out of my backpack. On the back was written:
Boston Park Plaza Hotel
50 Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 426-2000

I brought the card closer.
No way.
I held the card to my heart.  And closed my eyes. Just for a little miracle of a second, I thought, “I have been saved. Saved! SAVED by The Savior. The Jehovah-Sabaoth!”

I called the phone number.  The numbers on my screen were locked? And my phone still wouldn’t work.

I typed the address into my maps..and it worked! It was 4.3 miles away! So I tightened up my backpack and started jogging. Every 15 min or so, I would try to call the hotel to see if dad was there. No service.

An hour later, I came to familiar area. I walked up to the hotel..thinking they wouldn’t let me in. And the automatic doors opened and I saw him! Bright green shoes! Orange singlet! I was overcome with emotion. I cried tears of joy. My tears all day had been tears of fear.
There were no cabs leaving, but we found a van that was taking people to the airport.  So we threw our bags in and jumped in. Dad was still in his marathon clothes.  We heard there were no flights leaving Boston. But we went anyway.

We got to airport security and the lady says, “Sir, you need to take the safety pins out of the race bib..”

We found our terminal and our flight was only delayed 30 minutes. We sat down in the seats and sat in a state of shock. Neither one of us said anything for about 45 min. Until dad said, I think I’m gonna go change clothes and get a hamburger.  While he’s in the bathroom the lights in the whole airport go out. The whole airport…
I’m still in a stage of fear, but I don’t even think I reacted to the outage. Three K9 unit dogs are walking around the area smelling all of our suitcases.  I still don’t react. I reach out to pet the dog sniffing my suitcase and “Um, maam, you can’t pet the dogs”  as he points to the PLEASE DON’T PET ME sign on his neck.

We board and fly home. I still took short breaths. I still couldn’t feel. I had seen blood. Lots of blood. Destruction. Mass chaos. I could hardly move my body. Or my eyes. I couldn’t look at a magazine. Or watch tv. Or respond to the flight attendant.

We made it home. Our plane landed at 12:30. As we drove home, we started talking about what happened. It was surreal.

I finally was able to hug Duncan’s neck and kiss Waylon. I was home. Safe. I laid in bed last night and cried. I was overcome.  Overwhelmed. How come I made it home with not a bruise or broken bone or shrapnel? There was a man out there wanting to kill me. Such an incredibly odd feeling.

When I woke up this morning, I had an overwhelming sense of being alive. ALIVE! God had spared me and my dad! I still have a life of purpose to live.  I spent all day wrapping my head around what I had seen. I tried to decompress. And I wanted to write my story.  I wrote so that I wouldn’t forget how my Savior Lives. My Savior reigns. My Savior loves. My Savior lives.

I don’t know why bad things happen, but I know little miracles do. 
The sun, the red birds and the spring flowers remind me that things will be alright. I will recover, but hopefully this stays in my heart forever.



Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

"God had spared me and my dad! I still have a life of purpose to live." But God didn't spare those 3 people, one of which was a child. This is the most pretentious thing I have ever read. The victims lives aren't purposeful but yours is? You were hand selected by God? You should be ashamed.

Leah Ford said...

Hi Anonymous reader, I am not trying to sum up the entire day or the thousands of others' experiences, but my own. I feel like my dad and I were blessed on that day and I just wanted to share my story. I am sorry you feel offended, but I am not ashamed of feeling like I still have purpose and a life to live.

Heathers said...

While we are sad and pray for the losses we must not forget to be thankful. What an inspiring reminder of gratitude to the One who gives us life!! Thank you!!

Child of the King said...

Thank you for sharing your personal testimony of this tragic event. We, as followers of Christ, know that what people mean for evil, God can and does use for good. The troubled person(s) responsible for the bombings will have to answer for taking lives, but we pray that through testimonies like yours, Leah, God will be glorified for the miracles He has done in the aftermath.

Alecia Chapman said...

Thanks for sharing Leah. So thankful that God isn't finished with you or your dad yet! When I read your post I am struck with the reminder that our days were numbered before we ever breathed our first breath and we are not promised our next breath. We are so blessed to serve the God who holds the future in His hands and who walks with us through our times of suffering and our times of joy.

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate that you missed the whole point. And she and her dad are survivors, have you no compassion for THEM that you tell her she should be ashamed? It's easy for you to ridicule her from the comfort of your home, where no BOMBS went off.....

Maymaybriggs said...

Leah! Don't pet the dogs!! :) I love you so, and I can't wait to hug your neck! When I got word you guys were on the plane headed home I was just SO thankful. So thankful. Thank you for sharing your story. You are great with words. :) xo -Mary

NuclearShadow said...
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