A community project hosted at Northeastern University

An American Flag

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A story of a near miss, but more importantly the story of an American Flag and the hero who held it. Just another of the many small stories I thought should be shared

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Mine is not the story of excitement that many of those present or the first responders had. It is about a near miss and a hero who has had a huge impact on me. I spent most of my morning at the Marathon finish line that day. It was just me alone going out to experience something I had heard about for years but never seen. The atmosphere there was incredible, the energy of the crowd as one by one the racers trickled in was infectious, I can only describe it as a sensation of pure joy and happiness at the strength and the unifying spirit of mankind. As I was standing in the crowd that day a man came up to me, he had shoulder length dark brown hair coming out from his cowboy hat and looked to be about 30. He was holding a bunch of American Flags and asked if I would like one to wave in support of the servicemen and women who were taking the route that day with full packs. I thanked him and took one and every time I saw someone in fatigues I waved and cheered for all I was worth, trying to lift them up in thanks for their service. I stayed for a few hours until the street was filled with runners finishing en mass. I finally decided to head home that day, as I was tired and my friend who had planned on joining me called to tell me they weren't going to make it. I walked away grabbing something to eat on the walk back to my dorm in Speare. I started hearing sirens which didn't really register to me at first. Soon after hearing those first sounds my Mom called desperately trying to find out if I was okay. When she told me what happened I went into shock. I couldn't understand why something like this would happen, how someone could try to hurt people at an event so marked by joy and the spirit of man. I wanted to run back and help, but I knew by then that I would be too late, that I would only make it harder for the Police to clear the streets. I soon realized watching the news that the very spot I had been standing was the site of the second bomb. Had my friend joined me I would have stayed and so I was hit with the chilling realization that I missed being among the victims by less than half an hour. As the day wore on and slowly faded into the next the stories of the bravery of the first responders began to reach us all. As a community we were inspired by the runners who continued on after the hours long race straight to the hospitals to give blood, the doctors who stayed on for extra shifts joined by the dozens of additional doctors from around the state, the police officers who rushed from all corners to the scene,and the simple bystanders who without a moments hesitation became field medics and rescue personnel. As I watched the stories unfold on the news I saw a familiar face. It was footage of a first responder lifting a man who had lost a leg into a wheelchair and then helping to rush him to the tents while applying pressure to the wound. It was the man in the cowboy hat who had given me the American Flag Earlier that day. I was blown away, and the flag I had at that very moment been holding took on a greater meaning. It was more than just a thin wooden dowel with the Flag stapled onto it, it was a symbol of the galvanizing spirit of Boston that day. A simple man who had just come to try and support the troops, a stranger with a flag, had become one of the greatest heroes I had ever met. I don't know his name and I probably never will, but i wanted tell his story, whatever small part of it I know. Since that day I have never slept with that flag more than a few feet away from me. I brought it home to Georgia and back again with it hanging out of my backpack, one of my most prized possessions. It reminds me of the terrible things that happened that day, but more than that it reminds me that the people of Boston are good. That they took in strangers, selflessly ran towards the explosions rather than away from them, banded together as one community that declared with a single voice "You may have bombed our city, but you cannot break our spirit. This is Boston. We are Boston Strong."

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