The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

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The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

The Forum

The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

The Forum

Boston Bombings: Cross Country Coach Speaks Out

Aidan Sarazen

It is safe to assume that just about every member of the Latin community has some knowledge of the Boston Marathon bombings. What many do not know, however, is that one of our own was less than a block away from the explosions.

It was a good day to run. The sun was out and there was light breeze, perfect conditions for a marathon. Dan Daly, Latin’s longtime track and cross country coach, was going into his 19th Boston Marathon. He thought he knew what to expect. After finishing the race in just a hair over 3 hours and 30 minutes, Daly felt slightly disappointed, but still cheerful. There was a pleasant atmosphere, as runners stood around exhausted, yet relieved. As Daly began to walk back to his hotel, he ran into Latin alum Alice Baumgartner (Alice, a runner at Latin, came to speak earlier in the year about her experience working in a hospital in South America). The two were catching up when they heard a loud boom. Daly’s first inclination was that something had fallen off of a construction site. After another loud boom shook the ground, he “knew that it was a terrorist attack.” Standing about 300 meters from the finish line, his first inclination was to run towards the noise and help. As he rushed to the scene, though, he saw “the terror on the faces of those running away” and immediately turned around. Daly, once inside his hotel, was one of the first to break the news that the finish line of the marathon had been bombed. The next few hours were frantic and frenzied, but Daly managed to catch his flight back to Chicago and arrive safe and sound.

Boston is the site of one of Coach Daly’s favorite races. It isn’t the course, climate, or competition that makes the Boston Marathon so special for Daly. The deciding factor for him is the fans. According to Daly, the fans at the race are “very knowledgable and supportive.” He remembers fans from years past that had inspirational signs and sprayed runners with cool water when the sun was scorching hot. At Boston, the spectators provide the much needed motivation to finish the grueling 26.2 miles of the marathon. Unfortunately, the bomb that went off at the finish line had the most devastating effect on the fans. Of the three deaths that resulted from the bomb, all three were spectators. Of those injured (the count has risen to nearly 300), the majority were fans cheering on the finishing runners. Inevitably, questions were asked. Why was the bomb placed in an area that targeted innocent spectators? What could possibly have been achieved by hurting them? Dan Daly believes that the suspects, brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tzarnaev, were just “two sick and twisted people” who wanted to cause terror.

Although it’s tough to admit that so many were harmed for no significant reason, it may very well be true. Frighteningly enough, the root of terrorism lies within creating fear. How effective are these attacks in achieving their goal? The character of a country can be judged by how it bounces back from such traumatic assaults. Looking back to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, America was reeling in fear and grief for weeks. However, the nation took measures to help those affected, while also stepping up security, most notably in airports. This reaction has worked to prevent further catastrophic terrorist attacks, even if it hasn’t rid Americans of that ingrained sense of paranoia.

The Boston Marathon bombings differs from the 9/11 in that they caused destruction on a much smaller scale. Despite Boston being a smaller attack, the prevention of these smaller scale attacks is much more difficult. Daly believes that the marathons can “tighten up security along major staging areas, but aside from that, there is not much races can do.” While security at airports is nearly impassable, preventing idle citizens from carrying bags – in the case of Boston, the suspects concealed their bombs in backpacks – in public would be completely ridiculous. Checking bags would be a hassle and, with the sheer amount of people, ineffective. Besides, with the slight stepping up of security at aid stations and at start and finish lines, marathons will be just as susceptible to additional attacks. If the outlook on future public events is this gloomy, how will people feel about continuing to run marathons?

Some people have their doubts about later marathons. It is possible that the terror caused by the bombs will deter runners from entering into more famed races. However, Dan Daly is convinced that runners will be more eager to run in future marathons, especially Boston. He believes that the running community reflects America in the way that runners are “strong both locally and globally.” To Daly, the running world is special because any two people, acquainted or not, can connect by going for a run. Hopefully Daly is right in that not just runners, but people from around the globe, will band together and rebound with determination in response to the Boston Marathon bombings.

Of course, the attacks during the marathon were both surprising and terrifying for everyone around the world. For many within the Latin community, the alarm was intensified because one of our own had his life at risk. Dan Daly is a coach, mentor, and friend for runners at Latin. The community could have lost our beloved track and cross country coach. Instead of simply breathing a deep sigh of relief, Latin should let this horrifying experience be a reminder to all that holding onto those who are near and dear is of utmost importance, because life can take a turn for the worse in an instant.


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