With the Mark Wahlberg movie Patriots Day in wide release today, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the good work the American Red Cross and its volunteers do every day here in the Commonwealth.
When two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, focus shifted from a day of personal achievements to a rescue and response atmosphere. Over the next two weeks the region cycled through the fear of an attack, the determined drive to bring the accused to justice and a feeling of collective healing as people rallied around the victims, all while people tried to find what normal was after the Patriots Day bombing.
The American Red Cross has a long history supporting the Boston Marathon, staffing medical tents and water stations. Red Cross volunteers were at the finish line in 2013, directing marathon finishers to recovery areas, medical assistance, all the while keeping race lanes clear for the finishing wheel chair participants.
Lisa Contee was one of those volunteers working the finish line area of the Boston Marathon April 15, 2013. She helped runners through the finish line area, often times into the medical tent to receive treatment after the grueling 26.2 miles course.
“When the first explosion happened, we all thought it was some type of construction, perhaps just out of site,” Lisa recalled. “When the second explosion occurred, I was terrified; we all knew what it was.”
As organizers and police closed the finish line area for security reasons, Lisa and other Red Cross volunteers made their way back to the Regional Headquarters in Cambridge to await instructions on how to help.
Lisa describes the next 10 days as a flurry of support activities. Volunteers drove emergency response vehicles around the city of Boston loaded with coffee, water and snacks to help support law enforcement and medical personnel. The Red Cross disaster operation center was opened and staffed to ensure services were available to all who needed them.
“For 10 days we worked nonstop, but I needed to keep myself busy. I couldn’t cope with what happened, it was surreal for me,” Lisa said. This was a common thread among Red Cross volunteers and first responders. But as work slowed most realized the need to speak about what had happened.
Lisa spoke with disaster volunteers who specialize in coping with tragedy. Disaster mental health volunteers assisted first responders, National Guard troops as well as Red Cross staff and volunteers who had been working around the clock supporting police and recovery operations.
Though an exhausting time, both physically and emotionally, Lisa said it was an unforgettable time because of the people she met and assisted. The American Red Cross mission to alleviate suffering was definitely felt over those difficult weeks.
Thank you to all those who stepped forward to help during the aftermath of that day, and our thoughts continue to be with those still recovering from that day nearly four years ago.