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Our minds have been on Boston since the bombings occurred at the Boston Marathon April 15, horrifying the nation and creating chaos at the most prestigious and historical race in the nation.
But, for at least two Lebanon residents, the tragedy has been much more than just a news story.
For Jena Piekarski and her family, it's been extremely personal.
Boston is her home.
She, along with her husband, Michael, were born and raised in a small town 20 minutes south of Boston. Piekarski's parents also grew up in Boston. In fact, her dad was a police officer there for 36 years, her uncle is still a cop in Boston, and her brother, nieces, nephews, and much of her extended family still live in Boston.
What happened last week has been heartbreaking for her and her family.
“You know there is terrorism, but when it’s your home… the place you’re the closest to and the people you care the most for… it’s unbelievable,” Piekarski said. “It's devastating.”
Piekarski, who is an avid runner, has never ran the Boston Marathon herself, but she had friends who were there running that day, and friends who were among the thousands of spectators.
“It's a major event,” she said. “It is part of the culture. If you think about it… more than 24,000 runners plus half a million spectators… that’s enormous. The whole town is shut down that day. It’s a national holiday in Boston. Everything is closed.”
Piekarski first got word of the bombings while she was at work Monday, April 15. Then she started getting calls and text messages from family and friends. Her brother said all of it seemed like a really bad dream.
“He said it was unfathomable,” she said.
Piekarski's niece is a radiologist and she was working when the bombings occurred. She did scans on many of the victims, Piekarski said.
The ferocity of the event didn't really hit Piekarski until she was on a run Tuesday morning. Normally, she doesn't listen to music while she runs, but she did Tuesday morning. The first song that came on was one by the group Boston.
“It freaked me out,” Piekarski said. “It seemed serendipitous. And then everything just kind of hit me.”
Since the bombings occurred, she has tried not to watch the news because it's just too difficult.
Her brother said the atmosphere in Boston following the tragedy was pure fear.
“Everything was on lock down,” Piekarski said. “There were tanks and swat teams scouring the city. He said it was surreal.”
Piekarski said it's hard to believe that two people caused so much terror and violence.
“This is what they choose to do with the lives they are given,” Piekarski said. “Really, they are just two bullies.”
And while the tragedy has angered and saddened Piekarski, it has also motivated her… as a Bostonian and a runner.
“It hasn’t made me more fearful of crossing the finish line… it's made me more motivated,” she said. “Even though your instinct is to run away in fear, by doing that you're letting them win. I’m not giving them anything. You embrace a tragedy and you make it a success story.”
THE PINNACLE OF ALL RACES
The Boston Marathon is the oldest and most prestigious 26.2-miler in the country. In its 116 years, the race has become a phenomenon.
Charley Emmons of Lebanon was one of approximately 24,000 people to run the 2011 Boston Marathon on April 18, 2011.
When a coworker told him of the bombings last week he was immediately taken back to when he crossed the finish line in Boston.
“I immediately recalled running down Boylston Street remembering the thousands of people that are packed in there,” Emmons said. “It's just packed and everybody is cheering. You're totally exhausted at that point and then when something like that happens... you would just be totally confused. I couldn't put myself in their position... But, then again, I could.”
Emmons described the Boston Marathon as a “mass of humanity” and he said he's surprised there weren't more people injured during the bombings.
Many of Emmons' friends and family contacted him after the bombings, in fear that he might be at the race.
The search for the bombing suspects, which eventually led to Watertown, Mass., hit a nerve with Emmons, too, because that is where he stayed before the marathon.
Like so many others across the nation, Emmons has been heartbroken for the City of Boston and for the tradition that is the Boston Marathon.
“It's totally going to change how these races are run and the security,” he said. “There will be changes, I'm sure, but what they will be I don't know.”
The spirit of runners... the spirit of Americans... will also change as a result of this tragedy, according to Emmons, but in a good way.
“One of the things that terrorists don't realize is that what this type of thing does... it doesn't discourage us... it just pisses us off,” he said. “It encourages us.”
BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING UPDATE
Chechen brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, are accused of planting two explosives near the marathon finish line Monday, killing three people and injuring more than 180. A motive remains unclear.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died early Friday, April 19, at a hospital after a shootout with police.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaey is currently hospitalized, on a ventilator and restrained, since authorities took him into custody Friday night after finding him hiding in a boat in the back yard of a Watertown, Mass., home.
The federal government filed two charges against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Monday, counts that could result in the death penalty if he's convicted. He was charged with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death, according to a statement from the Justice Department.
A probable cause hearing has been scheduled for May 30 in U.S. District Court.