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Too close to tragedy
Veterinarians who raced in Boston Marathon ask "what if?"


"He brought him over to the family area and that's where he found me," Sill says. Tears overwhelm her still at the memory—not of seeing her husband but feeling him grab her and pull her up from the ground where she waited. "I didn't know where else to go," she told him. They held each other and cried.

The big city of Boston suddenly felt small. Streets were blocked off. Security was everywhere. People were asked to stay in their homes, their hotels. All Stevenson could do was watch the news from his hotel room. "You kind of felt helpless just watching, not knowing what to do," he says. "I wish I could've been there to help people out. Not being able to get back to that area, it was hard."

Sill and her husband walked for blocks past cordoned-off streets trying to get to back to their hotel, all the while trying to get a call out to let family know they were safe. Their three children had been following her progress throughout the marathon at school with the AT&T Athlete Alert mobile app. They knew she had finished near the time of the bombing. "It was terrifying for them," Sill says. After 40 minutes of not knowing, a call went through to her brother-in-law, relieving their family's worst fears. Sill says they thanked God their family had not come with them.

"Very few runners were hurt," Conover says, "but their family members and friends were because they were there to watch them."

While the physical injuries sustained by the blast victims were severe, the guilt experienced by runners who brought family and friends along is also terrible. "Emotional scars go deep," Conover says. "That's where a lot of my prayers have been."

In the days after the race, Stevenson found it hard to keep his mind from going back to Boston. "You wonder why you weren't directly affected by it and others were," he says. "What determined why you were lucky and others weren't so lucky? You look back and wonder 'what if?' It's hard to think about. You start getting emotional and angry about it."

Ottosen has dealt with similar emotions. "The hardest part was one minute you're struggling up the street—people cheering you on—and then literally three minutes later some of them are badly injured," he says. "You feel angry, you feel sad, but in the end it makes you determined to go back next year. That's the best thing I can do."

Conover and Stevenson agree. They want to run the Boston next year. "These kinds of things are going to be in our world, but it can't deter us from doing the things that fulfill us in our life, whether it's running or walking your cat," Ottosen says.

Sill doesn't know if she'll return. She prequalified for next year's marathon, but she's undecided. "You don't want to be overrun by fear," she says, but right now, the "what-if"s linger.

"It could've been so easy to run a 4:10 instead of a 3:53," Sill says. She could have slowed down, to let her pace slip. But she knew her children were tracking her. Safe at school, they followed her every step. "They knew I wanted to come in before 3:55," she says. "That's extremely motivating."

When the plane touched down in Wisconsin less than 24 hours after she crossed the finish line, Sill broke down. "That's when I lost it. That's when it all sunk in," she says. All that had happened—how close they had been. How important the decision to leave their kids at home had become. Home and safe, she cried. "It was a perfect day just turned into a nightmare—it really was."


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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