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From Harvard to home

I remember glancing at my phone at 1:56 p.m. on Monday, April 15. I was walking in Copley Square with another marathon volunteer, trying to find an entrance to the subway. We had both been stationed at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass., earlier that morning and had taken a bus back to Boston after our shift was over. I had agreed to babysit for one of my professors at 3 p.m., and I knew it would take me at least a half hour to walk there from Harvard Square, so I began to move a little faster.

However, as we attempted to make our way through the human maze, we stopped momentarily to take in the surroundings. Hundreds of exhilarated runners crossing the finish line, receiving blankets, water and food to begin replenishing their exhausted bodies. Some of them had just finished their first marathon, and some had completed their 20th. We saw kids running to hug their dads, husbands embracing their wives; everyone celebrating one of the greatest physical endeavors of our time.

I finally found the Arlington Street subway entrance, made my way back on the crowded train, and arrived on campus at about 2:30 p.m. I ran back to my room, grabbed a sweatshirt and a bottle of water, and headed back out to make the two-mile trek to my professor’s house. On the way, a friend texted me, asking if I was at the finish line yet. Oh no! I thought, I had completely forgotten to tell him I wasn’t going to have enough time to stay and watch our friends finish. I quickly replied, apologizing and saying I was back on campus.

"Gunshots," he replied at 2:52 p.m. What? Dismissing it as an iPhone autocorrect, I ignored it for a few minutes while I entered the house, said hello to the morning babysitting, and starting getting a board game out to play with the little boy. I picked up my phone again, vaguely wondering what he had actually meant; I typed a question mark, to which he answered, “Two explosions at the finish line. Have you heard from Heidi?”

That was when my panic mode began. I tried to contact all my friends I knew who were running or watching. I called my professor to let her know I was there and that everything was OK. She had no idea what was going on, but she turned on the radio in her office, and I could hear the blaring sirens over the phone.

For the next two straight hours, I responded to e-mails, Facebook posts, and text messages, all from people checking to make sure I was safe. Parents, grandparents, cousins, bosses, even my Princeton “Hallmark moms.” coaches, teachers and a few classmates from high school who said they had immediately thought of me when they heard the news. I even received text messages from numbers I did not recognize. Though it was stressful trying to make sure I replied to each and every one, I cannot explain the gratitude I felt for the outpouring of love and support. People really care.

In a perfect world, there would be no violence, no bombs, no blood. It is unfortunate that it takes a tragedy, but it is times like these that make me truly realize how lucky I am to be surrounded by family and friends who truly care. I have lived here for the greater part of two years, and I am proud to call this city my home. With the outpouring of support from around the world, Boston will bounce back and be stronger for it. Though someone may set off a bomb, stopping the race and killing an 8-year-old boy, there will always be someone who finishes the race, runs to Massachusetts General Hospital, and asks to give blood. We decide when our marathon ends.

I thank all of you back home for your concern, love and support. Please continue to pray for the victims and families affected by these tragic events.

Haley Adams, a Princeton High School graduate, is a sophomore at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. She can be reached at haleyadams@college.harvard.edu.

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