Four Anselmians recall dark hours in wake of Boston Marathon blasts

Mark Kotsopoulos, Crier Staff

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news my mother would say to me
‘look for the helpers. You will always find people helping.’”  ~ Fred Rodgers
It was a perfect day in the city of Boston. The weather was beautiful, the Red Sox had walked off with a win, and runners were triumphantly making their way to the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon.  No one could have predicted that this picture-perfect day would turn ugly within minutes and become one of the worst in Boston’s history.
Minutes before 3:00 p.m., two bombs exploded near the marathon’s finish line. The attack killed three people and injured over 170, many critically. Four members of the Saint Anselm community found themselves in the middle of the chaos that ensued after the blasts.
Professor Paul Finn, coach of the Saint Anselm marathoners, was watching at mile 19 when a parent notified him about the explosions. Stunned, Finn immediately began searching for his runners. As he walked through the mass of spectators, he was struck by the great sadness that shrouded him. “The hardest part of that day was seeing the cause-related runners,” he said. “The joy on their faces was gone in an instant.”
Within a matter of hours, Professor Finn was able to account for all of his runners, get them back on the bus, out of the city, and back to campus unharmed.
“Everyone helped each other,” Finn recalled. “We made it back because people thought of others and not themselves. It was beautiful!”
Junior runner Annie Sears stopped in her tracks at mile 25 when she heard a man’s frantic scream: “A bomb went off at the finish line. People are dead! We are not safe!” Sear’s fellow runner, junior Elizabeth Gillespie, was stopped at mile 23.
Both Gillespie and Sears saw incredible acts of heroism and kindness while walking through the confusion. “To see all of the people risk their safety to help others was truly inspiring,” Gillespie said. “There were two people who caused harm that afternoon, but there were hundreds of heroes.” said Sears.
Junior Kristen Pawlowski and her cousin came to Boston to cheer on friends running the marathon. Kristen was eating lunch with her sisters a block away from the finish line when they heard the explosion. “At first we thought it was a car accident, but when I looked out the window and began to see the smoke I knew something was seriously wrong,” she said.
When Kristen walked outside to see what had happened, they noticed a woman bleeding from her neck. Kristen, a nursing major, and her cousin, a registered nurse, immediately sprang into action. Kristen ran to the nearest medical tent to grab gauze for the injured woman.
“I saw some horrible things during that walk, injuries that I had never seen before,” she explained.
Pawlowski was able to maintain her focus and returned to the injured woman’s side  to apply pressure to her wound. She and  her cousin performed first aid until E.M.T.s arrived.
“I always wanted to be a trauma nurse,” Palowski said. “The things that I experienced on Marathon Monday solidified my career choice. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she added.
Hours after the attack, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two suspects in the bombing tweeted “Ain’t no love in the heart of the city,” lyrics from an old R&B song made popular by rapper Jay Z. The four Anselmians who bore ,witness to his evil could not  disagree more. Their faith in humanity was strengthened on that fateful Monday afternoon. “Boston was all about love that day!” Professor Finn exclaimed. “Love got us out of the city, love saved dozens of people.”