Monday, April 15, 2013 at 2:49 p.m., two bombs went off 13 seconds from each other at the 117th annual Boston Marathon on Patriot’s day.
The terrorist attack, which killed three and wounded 282, hit home for many students at Norwich University who are tied to Boston in a variety of different ways.
The sunny start to the week turned into a somber day as the country and New England students were caught off guard by this terrifying event. One of them was Zach Milesky, a 21-year-old senior communications major from Cape Cod, Mass.
“My mom was at the finish line working at the medical tent,” he said. Milesky couldn’t get in contact with his mom because communication was cut off, “I didn’t know at the time that she got called an hour before the bomb went off to go back to her office.”
Federal officials took precautions and cut off phone lines because there was thought that the bombs could have been triggered using cellular devices, according to CNN. Today, some of these major questions still remain unanswered.
Milesky’s mother works for the Massachusetts State Department of Emergency Management. Senior Rachel Williams’s father works in the same field and she found herself caught up in the events in the same way.
“He is a first responder. I feel for the victims’ families because it could’ve been my family,” said Williams, 23, a criminal justice major from Weymouth, Mass.
“Every time I was in my room, I put my local news stations on my computer while cleaning my room or doing my homework just to keep up with it,” she said.
Two members of the Norwich family ran the marathon that day and were fortunately safe. Cross-country coach Nick Cooper and senior men’s varsity runner Ezekiel Cary both crossed the finish line before the explosions.
In honor of those participants that didn’t finish the race, volunteers, first responders – and the Norwich women’s rugby team – ran in honor of those who died across the nation. Thousands of people participated in a virtual run for Boston the Wednesday, April 17, after the attack. The rugby ladies wore blue and yellow, the colors of the famed marathon, made a sign that said “Run for Boston” with their names on it and posted a photo of themselves holding it up on the website leading the promotion.
“While running, I was just silent, thinking about how, yes, this happens all the time in Afghanistan and Iraq to Americans,” Williams said. “The fact that now it’s back on American soil it was just so real again after September 11,” she said.
Ezekiel Cary was with his parents and his aunt on the day of the marathon. “We were walking maybe a block or two south of the finish line when we saw people who were crying (and) throwing up on the side,” said Cary, a 21-year-old senior from Huntington, Vt. “It’s the end of a marathon, people do that, then we realized it was more serious than that and heard it had been an explosion,” he said.
Cary said he just wanted to leave the city when the word spread a couple of blocks down. He saw a little bit of smoke, police departments from surrounding towns driving into the city, and around six helicopters hovering over the 15 block area.
“It was too close for comfort,” he said.
The high of running the race contrasted with the horror of the blast. “There were so many people cheering for us, in over 26 miles there wasn’t more than a half a mile where there wasn’t someone there,” Cary said. “Nobody there did anything to deserve that.”
When they were leaving the area the family heard others say it was an act of terrorism, and the first emotion that Cary felt was anger.
On Thursday, April 18, the two brothers alleged to have undertaken the attack were identified and after the photos were released the manhunt began, resulting in the death of a security officer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as the elder brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
The manhunt for the younger brother began after he escaped the shootout injured, according to CNN.
One of Norwich’s very own wrestler, Alex Kwmuntis, was contacted by reporters who wanted to know if he had any connections to the younger bomber, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Kwmuntis had wrestled the suspect once at a Division I state tournament for Massachusetts during his senior year of high school.
“I had no connection with him,” he said.” And one person cannot tarnish the reputation of the good and disciplined people that wrestling produces and attracts.”
“It doesn’t affect the way I look at the situation. I still look at (it) as an outsider,” he said. “I feel for all the people whose family members or friends were lost or injured at the bombing.”
By the time Coach Cooper returned to the condo where he was staying, a mile and a half away from the scene, the bombing was on the news. He was on a subway during the explosion. “One of my other friends had just finished within two minutes of it,” Cooper said. He ran the marathon with a group of his college friends.
“I waited for an hour or so after my race because I had three other friends that were running,” he said. “I was going to go watch one of my other friends finish, then one of my other friends’ parents ran by me so I went to go track them down, I was thankful for that,” he explained.
“It was hard to process. We had just run a marathon so we were out of it to begin with. It was humbling and hard to understand that it could happen,” Cooper said.
The Boston Athletic Association, which runs the marathon, has already sent out a statement that the marathon will happen again next year, Cooper noted.
“To see how Boston reacted and how they bounced back, how the community did as a whole, how everybody helped out everybody, all the support and love, that was amazing,” said Abby Belcher, a 20-year-old junior communications major from Winthrop, Mass. She lives just seven minutes away from Boston and considers the city to be her hometown.
“I was on the bus with the softball team. We were on our way to New Hampshire to play Revere in a game. I got a text, a group message, from my friend who lives in Cambridge, about the bombings,” she said. “I felt useless.”
“I was able to access videos while we were still on the bus, me and a couple of girls that were from Mass. We were watching them and we were honestly just speechless,” Belcher said. “We couldn’t believe it, we saw it right in front of us and it was happening.
Belcher’s mother works in Harvard square in Cambridge and fortunately was not at work that day. “As soon as I found out that my family was okay, I started texting my friends because all my friends go to school in Boston so that’s really scary too,” she said.
For nights after the bombing, Norwich students honored those affected as the bugler played taps on the upper parade ground. This was to commemorate those lost in the tragedy and pay respects to “those that helped out that didn’t need to do anything,” according to Kwmuntis.
It was for “the people that were directly involved who put it out there for someone they didn’t even know,” he said.
“I think being in New England, it brought us together, which is great,” Milesky said. “Acts of terrorism are supposed to make us scared and do the exact opposite. We triumphed over what happened,” he said.
“Norwich stands behind Boston,” said Williams.