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A story from the finish line of the Boston Marathon

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Haley Phillips, her younger sisters and her father at the 2013 Boston Marathon Haley Phillips, her younger sisters and her father at the 2013 Boston Marathon
Boston, MA -

I grew up watching marathons. Chicago, Boston, New York, Arizona. I've been dragged from viewing point to viewing point for as long as I can remember.

For me, marathon day once meant spending the day with one of my fathers friends wearing a shirt that said "go daddy" across the front and waiting impatiently for the moment when my dad would run by, give me a sweaty hug and kiss, and continue running.

Later, my adolescent-self cringed in embarrassment when my dad would make me run across the finish line with him.

My marathon experiences these days are usually very different.

Nowadays the day usually consists of 'mani-pedis' in the morning followed by a hurried lunch and frantic rushing to the finish line just in time to see my dad cross and receive his medal.

This Monday in Boston, my step mom and two sisters munched on room service before heading to the nail salon. While sitting in pedicure chairs getting our feet massaged we joked about feeling sympathy pain for my father, who according to the Boston marathon text updates, was running his 25th Boston marathon at an unusually slow pace.

To us, this meant we wouldn't have to be done with lunch until after 2. Eventually we made our way to the course, and about 2:15 we easily found a place to watch a few hundred yards from the finish line in front of our hotel on Boylston street.

Although marathons have always been to me just "my dads thing", this time I was struck by my the experience.  Cheering on the runners so close to the finish line for the first time with my little sisters (age 1 and 3) seemed to me more meaningful than many of my past experiences.

I climbed on the metal railing so I could see if I could spot my dad approaching. All the while we continued to joke about his slow race time and when we finally saw him approaching us it was about 2:40.

He stopped, gave us hugs, explained that his speed was due to tightness in his legs, snapped a few pics and continued to run towards the big finish.

A few minutes later we were mosying our way to the finish line to meet him when we heard a huge explosion.

There was a big burst of smoke and everything and everyone seemed to stop, wondering what had happened.

My first thoughts were that there was a flare or fireworks at the finish line. Before anyone had time to think, 10-seconds had passed and another blast occurred.

This time it was closer to us and caused instant panic all around. Directly across the street from the nearest explosion we didn't know what to expect next. First instinct was to press our bodies against the rivets in the building to find some shelter.

This wasn't very helpful and left me feeling more like an ant trapped in a box of buildings with no escape.

Second instinct was to run. Everyone around me was hysterical and panicking and no one knew what had happened, what was going to happen, or where to go for safety.

I was pushing my 3-year-old sister's stroller and not knowing what had happened to my father who had just finished the race moments before, I pushed my way into the building followed shortly by the rest of my family.

Everyone was hysterical and no one knew what was going on or if there were going to be more explosions.

We just knew that we wanted to take shelter, yet no where around us seemed safe.

We ran up a flight of stairs in the hotel and exited into a plaza where we stopped to collect ourselves.

In those moments I stopped and thought to myself "please let the explosions be over."

Seconds later, I received a text from a random number saying "Scott ok go back to hotel stay there." I texted back immediately, "is he ok did you see him?" and the person answered positively. 

Little did my father know that our hotel was right across from the second explosion and was being evacuated.

We had to keep moving and we left the park area and ran through the Prudential building to get as far away from Boylston as possible.

Finally I received a text from my father and told him where we were and he began making his way to us. An hour after the first blast we were all finally reunited.

Written by Hailey Phillips

Cornell University Sophomore and 2011 graduate of Cranbrook

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