It was 2:33, one more picture, one more tweet. I managed a coveted spot at the Finish line, at the 4:00:00 mark. I saw people finishing 26.2 miles, people in pain but with a smile. I saw the highest level of motivation and inspiration. I saw parents pushing the carriages of their sick children; they run and push their loved ones. I saw old runners beating their aching knees; I saw all the flags of the world being carried by proud spectators, young and old alike. I saw the charity runners smile as they point into the printed name on their shirt: “For Greg,” and “Beat MS”. I saw the 5-year-old jump the rails to join daddy and run with him towards the finish line. I saw the family holding the homemade sign, and scream on the top of their lungs, to be heard by their loved one. I saw the highest of the human spirit, keep on keeping on, running and prevailing, despite the uphill course, despite the pain.
And at 2:50, I saw smoke, right next to me. I saw jubilation turn to panic. I saw blood, and body parts. I saw mothers hold tight their babies. I saw teenagers crying and seeking their parents in the crowd. I saw courage from the officers running towards the fire. I saw unconditional love as the hurt husband was crying and hugging his loved one covered in blood. I saw the power of all of us getting together, huddling, hugging and helping. I saw the reporters dignifying the victims and giving them space. I saw the dazed runners walking off course, crossing an imaginary finish line for the race they were denied to finish. I saw a toddler hug her mother and innocently ask: “where is the finish line?”. I saw evil and terror met with compassion and character. And character won. Life is a marathon. But a marathon is life, despite the death.