Anne Sullivan Young who taught at Seton before becoming a nurse and then a wife and mother lives 30 miles northwest of Boston and about the same distance from Watertown. She worked in Watertown for eight years at Perkins School for the Blind. The school was less than one mile from where suspect #1 was killed and less than half a mile from where suspect #2 was apprehended. Here is Anne’s experience during the time after the Boston Marathon.
The bombing took place on Patriots’ Day which “is a wonderful holiday in Massachusets. It is often referred to as Marathon Monday since the Boston Marathon is always on this day. Patriots’ Day is a state holiday and the beginning of school vacation. The battle in Concord and Lexington is reenacted every year, beginning at 5 a.m., and then Lexington has a parade. The Marathon begins late morning, and there is always a home game for the Red Sox that starts at 1 p.m. The game starts as the first runners are crossing the finish line, which is very near to Fenway Park.
“Before I had children, [Anne has a six year old daughter and sons who are five and three.] I always went in to watch the Marathon. A few of my brothers ran it for several years. The crowds and logistics are challenging with small children, so in recent years I have taken the kids to the Lexington parade; my friend lives right on the parade route so we are always guaranteed a good seat. This year, however, in honor of Lexington's 300th anniversary, they decided to move the parade from Monday to Sunday. I was unable to go since I was out of town.”
This year, on Patriots’ Day, “I was visiting my parents. They had been watching the Marathon on TV but turned it off when I arrived with the kids.” So Anne first heard about the bombings from her sister. Their brother was at the Marathon to cheer on a friend, and Anne’s sister had heard from him and told Anne and her parents that he was okay. Anne shortly afterwards called her brother. After she hung up, she heard a report that there was an explosion at the JKF Library which is several miles from the finish line. “It was a scary time since no one knew if there were other bombs. I sent him a text to get out of the city, but he replied that getting on public transportation might not be the best idea.”
Later, Anne learned that her 13 year old niece was 100 feet away from the bomb that was detonated near the finish line. “She was there as a mother’s helper. The mother and her five and six year old children were waiting for the father of the family to finish the Marathon. He was about a half mile away when the bomb went off. I knew of two others who were running the Marathon and I found that Facebook, which I have a love-hate relationship with, was very helpful in finding out quickly that they were okay. Another friend of mine, who is an ER nurse, was volunteering in the medical tent at the finish line. She ended up caring for a mother and daughter who were seriously injured in the blast.”
In the aftermath, Anne found the week emotionally exhausting. “To have our back yard on the world stage was strange. News of this sort happens elsewhere on unfamiliar streets. I knew so many of the streets and businesses that were being shown on the news. Mixed in with the shock and the grief was a marked determination to continue to live life fully without fear. Bostonians are a tough breed. We are Boston strong! I was so proud of how people ran to help. Many runners continued running right to the nearest hospital to donate blood.
“The medical response was phenomenal. Boston is home to many world class hospitals, and all of them were prepared. Emergency departments are mandated to do disaster drills twice a year. Once the news hit, the nurses started clearing out the emergency rooms and preparing for the victims. They had operating rooms set up to handle shrapnel and amputations. The Boston EMS is known nationally for its excellent care and response and it sure showed that day. From the time of the explosion to to first patient going into surgery was only 30 minutes. Keep in mind that there was massive panic and chaos, with each ER taking about 30 severely wounded patients. About an hour into the emergency response, one of the ERs received a bomb threat. In the midst of their urgent treatments, they had to evacuate and move everyone, staff and patients, to another area of the hospital!
“Jeff Bauman, who grew up in my town and still lives here, has become a local hero. He lost both of his legs in the explosion. There is a rather well known picture of him being transported in a wheel chair, with a man in a cowboy hat helping. That man lost one son in Afghanistan and another a few years later to suicide. At the marathon he was in the right place at the right time and was instrumental in saving Jeff's life. Jeff, in turn, identified the suspects, as he made eye contact with one of them right before the bomb went off.”
Faith often comes to the forefront when there is a crisis or a tragedy. “There was an ecumenical prayer service at the cathedral in Boston two days after the attack. Many religious and political leaders were in attendance. I was touched by some very moving pictures of Mother Olga. I call her Boston’s Mother Teresa. Mother is from Iraq and lived through four wars. As a teenager she was already familiar with dismembered bodies resulting from bombings. She came to Boston a little over ten years ago and worked in campus ministry at Boston University. One of the bombing victims who died was a young woman from China who was studying at BU. At the prayer service, Mother Olga was seen embracing the family of this woman. With her particular background and strong faith, I can’t help but see God using her to bring hope and healing to our city.
“A year ago this past December, Mother Olga started a new order here in Boston called the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth. She is a family friend, and we were blessed to have her come to my youngest son’s baptism. She radiates such joy and warmth that people just want to be in her presence. Here is a link to her order:
With respect to the lockdown, Anne learned of it from her husband. “Our town was not in lockdown since we are 30 miles north of the city. However, when I learned it was Watertown, I immediately thought of the people I knew who live and work there. I spent a lot of time on Facebook checking their statuses to make sure they were okay.”
Anne also had to be concerned about her children’s knowledge and reaction to what was going on. “My daughter, who is 6, has been pretty oblivious of what happened. My sons, ages 5 and 3, however, are pretty tuned in when there is any sort of truck or fire on TV. My 5 year old knows the police caught a bad guy who set off a bomb. Bomb is now in the vocabulary of my 3 year old. It is nearly impossible to shield them completely from the media coverage while trying to stay informed at the same time.” During the time of the lockdown Anne said, “Oddly enough, my kids were happily playing in the playroom and outside while I was glued to the TV for 3 hours that morning! That NEVER happens. I sometimes get a reprieve of 10-15 minutes before someone is demanding my attention. That afternoon I took them to a circus, which was a welcome break from the intensity of the lockdown. By that evening my 5 year old was clued in about the bad guy the police were trying to catch, but they were not anxious.
“I was glad this all took place during school vacation. I was grateful I didn't have to send them to school that week and also knowing that the students at Perkins were not on campus in Watertown during that lockdown. Letting my first grader go to school after the Newtown shooting tore at my heart. I wanted so much to keep her home, yet she had no idea what transpired so for her sake I continued on as usual."
Anne was relieved when the hunt for the suspects was over. “I was desperate to know what was going on but often had to put that aside for the sake of protecting my children. The tension of the reality of what was happening and trying to act as if everything was normal for the sake of my little ones was so draining.”
"And now we try to return to normalcy. Yet daily there are reminders of what happened a month ago. There are always fundraisers for local victims posted in town and on message boards. Often there are updates in the news, such as Jane Martin, the sister of Richard Martin, the 8 year old who was killed, being discharged from the hospital to rehab. She lost her leg, her mother had shrapnel in her eye and her father suffered severe hearing loss and shrapnel wounds. The emotional wounds take so much longer to heal and I continue to hold in prayer all those who were affected by this atrocious attack."
Jezu, ufam Tobie.