As they were eating lunch at California Pizza Kitchen last Monday, Colin Tierney and his buddies from Bishop Hendricken couldn’t have imagined the devastation that would soon unfold on the surrounding streets.
They couldn’t have imagined it later, either, when they missed their 1:45 p.m. train out of Boston, or even after they missed their 2:30 train. Really, there was no need to worry about schedules. They were having fun, laughing, playing XBox Kinect in the Microsoft store and – most importantly – watching the Boston Marathon, along with thousands of others.
It was the carefree kind of day that Patriots Day in Boston is supposed to be. After all, Tierney had been to the marathon every year since he was a little kid and always enjoyed it. There was no reason to suspect that this time would be any different.
Tierney, a junior at Hendricken was in the city to watch people do what he and his friends also love to do. He wanted to watch them run. Tierney, along with fellow Hendricken cross country and track standouts Connor Doyle, Tyler Henseler, Grant Gauthier and Tom Grizzetti were all there because running is a part of their lives, just like it is for all the participants in the marathon.
“We actually thought of the idea of going down the block a little ways, throwing on our running clothes and hopping into the race and finishing,” Tierney said. “We thought it was so cool and everyone was so happy, it would be really cool if we could finish, maybe pick up one of those towels and get out of there.”
At just after 2:40 p.m., Tierney and his group – which also included two girlfriends – moved to an enclosed glass bridge between the Prudential Center and the Lord & Taylor clothing store. From that spot, they had a good view of an area not far from the race’s finish line.
Roughly 10 minutes later, their view was of mayhem on the streets of Boston.
“Everyone was just cheering and cheering,” Tierney said. “Then it was like, ‘Boom.’ Complete quietness. Then screaming, and franticness.”
The first of two bombs in what turned out to be a deadly terrorist attack on the city had detonated just out of sight. A few seconds later, the second bomb went off.
More mayhem. More chaos. And this time, Tierney saw even more.
“Then I looked up at the building straight across the street from us, and the second bomb just exploded,” he said. “When explosions happen, you know how they’re black and fiery? Right when it got the biggest it got without smoking, I was already turning and running the other way.”
What ensued was one of the most frantic moments of Tierney and his friends’ lives. They navigated their way through crowded streets, sometimes holding hands, observing a city that was in complete panic.
They had no way of knowing at the time what exactly had happened or who was behind it, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was getting as far away from the finish line as possible.
“You see on TV that everyone is running and screaming and crying,” Tierney said. “It’s exactly like that in real life, except it’s more real.”
Seven teenagers, alone in Boston, running for their lives. Moments earlier, they were having the time of their lives.
Luckily for each of them, their nightmare ended sooner than it did for some others. They eventually made their way to the apartment of the brother of one of the group members, and from there the mother of one of the girls drove in from Swansea, picked them all up in a van and shuttled them out of the city just moments before Boston went into lockdown mode.
“It wasn’t until we got home and we sat there that we were like, ‘Whoa, did that actually happen?’ Because from the time the second one went off until we got home, we were running and frantically moving,” Tierney said.
Plenty of people, though, were not as lucky as Tierney and his friends. Three people died that day, with over a hundred more wounded. Many lost limbs, surviving only thanks to the courage of a nearby civilian or the blood donation of a hero.
While nothing will ever make up for the pain felt in the city that day, people have rallied together to ease the suffering – an unanticipated positive side effect of a terrible tragedy.
Upon returning home, Tierney felt the need to rally as well. He wanted to help the victims, in one way or another, because he saw the looks on the faces of the people in the city that day.
With the help of his parents Mary and Scott, Tierney came up with an idea. They ordered 200 bracelets online, colored in a blue and yellow combination to represent the official colors of the Boston Marathon.
On the bracelets, they had the words “Combat Evil With Good” written on one side, and the quote is attributed to Pope Francis on the other side. After the Pope’s name, the words “Boston 2013” are inscribed.
Pope Francis said those words in his homily the day after the bombings.
“We thought it was so impactful what Pope Francis said,” Tierney said. “We don’t even really mean it as a religious type thing, we just thought it was an influential quote.”
The Tierney family decided to sell the 200 bracelets for $5 each, and they didn’t plan on using any of the profit to cover the initial purchase of the bracelets. That way, all the money could go toward the relief effort, a charity known as “The One Fund Boston” that was set up the day of the bombings by Boston Gov. Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas Menino.
The bracelets came in the mail, and Tierney went and spoke to Hendricken principal Jay Brennan. An announcement was made over the loudspeaker, and Tierney sat at a table during lunch periods on Tuesday selling the bracelets.
In one day, he sold approximately 180 of the 200 bracelets.
“Yesterday, during school, I went to the bathroom and texted my mom,” Tierney said on Wednesday. “I was like, ‘Mom, order 200 more. We’re going to need them.’”
And the Tierney family did order 200 more. They’re still being sold at Hendricken, or really to anyone who wants to make a donation. Many people have been particularly generous, giving more than the $5 asked for a single bracelet.
Tierney also called his pastor at his local church, Our Lady of Mercy in East Greenwich, and Tierney will be sitting outside the church this Sunday selling bracelets there.
After that, Tierney and his parents will re-assess. They might even need to make another order.
“The idea was that if we could raise $1,000 that would be great,” Tierney said. “Then we basically sold all 200, so why not go $2,000? Why not 3? Let’s get as much as we can get.”
The One Fund has already raised over $20 million in its first week in existence, and the Tierneys and the Bishop Hendricken community are certainly doing their part. Hendricken is holding a dress down day today, where students pay to dress out of uniform. All proceeds are going to the fund.
The effort of the Tierneys and the school community is indicative of people all over New England. It’s a microcosm of the love that we have for each other, and the love that the two men who planted those bombs were trying to take away.
But they can’t. Even those, like Tierney, who saw the destruction that day, and were scared that they may never make it home, are undeterred.
And through the help of people like the Tierney family, healing from a day of excruciating pain is happening every day.
“We didn’t really know how successful it would be,” Tierney said. “Luckily, it was great. We ordered another 200. If we sell those 200, we’ll order another set and just keep going.”
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.