The Boston Athletic Association granted nearly 500 people entrance into the 118th running of the Boston Marathon based on essays they wrote on how profoundly impacted they were by the bombings at the 2013 race.
Below are 14 of those essayists awarded bibs for Monday's race:
Jasmin Ali, 30, South Boston
After the second explosion, I grabbed Anna's hand and ran with the crowd. I tried calling Jack. I remembered he didn't have his phone. Jeff Bauman came by. I hung up.
It was an unnatural juxtaposition. Anna and I hysterically cried as we walked to the Friends and Family area to try and find Jack. Naturally, everyone was celebrating loved ones. They didn't know. I didn't even know that Jack's longtime friends, standing on the other side of Boylston, had been hit with shrapnel and lay bleeding on the sidewalk. It marked what would become a never-ending journey for them. I was lucky. Sleepless nights, flashbacks, uncontrollable shaking, crying, and numbness eventually subsides. But the guilt does not.
I am asking you for this opportunity. I need to run for those who helped me. I need to run for those who will now never have the chance. I need to run to take back that day. I need to run for my city. Boston Strong.
Dan Benshoff, 48, West Hartford, Conn.
Editor's note: Dan Benshoff is Creative Director for ESPN Digital Media.
Sarah Bordua, 28, West Roxbury, Boston
I was greeted at the hospital entrance by armed guards with assault rifles. I began my night at work with a heavy heart. Shortly into my shift, I learned that there had been gunshots fired in Cambridge. I switched on the TV in my ICU patient's room and caught glimpses of the rampage that was occurring outside. I felt sick. My heart started racing when one of the nurses said that the hospital was on lockdown and we had to run into the middle of the unit so that every nurse could be accounted for. We heard that there were bomb threats being called in to the hospital and there was rumor that shots were fired in the ER. Even though it was the middle of the night, I called my husband and my brother and told them what was going on.
Miraculously, the longest night shift of my life ended and everyone was okay. The city could resume regular life, as people woke up and discovered that the killer had been caught. I don't know if the city I have called home for 10 years will ever feel the same. I do know that we are more united, experienced and STRONG as a result of April 15, 2013.
Samantha Creighton, 22, Mission Hill, Boston
No, I was not on the bomb side of the street. Instead, I watched from directly across, in terror, not knowing if my friends opposite me were safe.
Yes, I escaped. But not before falling to the ground amidst the throngs of petrified onlookers trying to run by me. And not before my friend scraped me off of the ground while yelling, "Run!"
Yes, I made it to safety. But not peacefully. I felt the guilt of leaving my friends behind. Had they made it out unscathed?
No, I was not hospitalized. Instead, I sported a visitor's badge as I entered the room of my friends, two of the three Northeastern students who were hospitalized for severe leg injuries. Words escaped me.
No, I am not okay. Instead, I cradle my best friend who lost her innocent 8-year-old neighbor that day. I relive the horror in my mind every day. I take a daily dose of anti-anxiety medicine and attend weekly therapy.
No, I'm not afraid. Instead, my injured friends gave me strength and inspiration. They lived valiantly and bravely through a terrorist attack. How then, does a mere 26.2 miles seem like a feat? Yes, I am optimistic. Running the 2014 Boston Marathon is the next step in my healing process. Facing my fears, overcoming my obstacles, and showing my friends the same strength that they showed me last April is something that I will stop at nothing to achieve.
Edward Deveau, 57, Watertown, Mass.
Karleen Herbst, 23, South Boston
That is why this year I would like to run the 2014 Boston Marathon in honor of the lives lost and lives forever changed. Receiving this bib would give me a sense of closure and end the sleepless nights of asking myself "What If?" I would use this bib to help raise money for Playworks, the organization where I work. Playworks serves over 15,000 students across Boston & Lawrence, using the power of play to bring out the best in every kid. Playworks ensures students are safe and included in areas of Boston that are generally considered dangerous and high-risk. On the day of the Marathon, I felt unsafe in the city of Boston for the very first time; however, I know this is something our Playworks students experience daily. Receiving these bibs will bring closure for my colleagues and me, as well as raise awareness and funds for the children of Boston.
Karen Kinnaman, 29, Beacon Hill, Boston
A uniformed man barged through the ambulance bay doors screaming "police officer shot." Within 10 seconds, a stretcher was wheeled in carrying a pulseless MBTA police officer with a devastating gunshot wound. He was straddled by his partner performing CPR. We learned that the injury occurred "amidst grenades and gunfire" in nearby Watertown. The deck seemed stacked against us, with no time for calculation or preparation. But the stories from my co-residents on Marathon Monday had been truly inspiring, and surely their courage sustained me on this night. Following a 40-minute-long resuscitation effort, we obtained a pulse.
After days marred by death and destruction, here was a story that yielded life. The bombers may have stolen the innocence of my revered race, shattered the lives of my fellow Bostonians, and hijacked the life of one police officer who provided safety to my college campus at MIT -- but ultimately, this courageous MBTA officer opened his eyes, squeezed his wife's hand, and recovered his strength. So too did Boston. Like in the ED on the night of the Watertown shooting -- I am all in for Boston, and would be greatly honored to "eat Heartbreak Hills for breakfast" on April 21, 2014.
Bruce Mendelsohn, 45, Auburn, Mass.
Within 30 seconds I was on the scene and wrapped a tourniquet around Victoria's lower left leg. In one of the iconic photos of the marathon bombings, Boston Firefighter Jimmy Plourde cradles Victoria in his arms. I subsequently learned from Victoria's surgeons that the tourniquet I applied saved her life. Over the past six months I have spoken to groups of all ages, sharing my unique story and an inspirational message of help, hope, and healing. That's helped overcome some of the anger the bombing kindled in me.
As a veteran of 17 marathons, I would like to run the Boston Marathon to help bring my personal healing full circle -- and to honor the other bombing victims who cannot run.
I'm applying for one of the available slots because I can envision no greater tribute to the victims, nor stronger statement to the perpetrators, that we are unbowed. On April 21, 2014, I hope to cross the Finish Line where just over a year before I saved the life of a young girl. Thank you for this opportunity and for your consideration.
Kate Plourd, 29, Jamaica Plain, Boston
There are a million words to describe how the Marathon affected and changed me. As I saw the "Entering Boston" sign in Brookline that day -- 7 years after moving to Boston, taking up running to get healthy -- I said to myself for the first time, "Boston you're my home." An hour later -- dehydrated and defeated -- in a finish line medical tent, I heard the explosions. Then announcements: "Explosions at the finish line. Casualties. Dismemberments. Prepare yourself to treat the victims."
Phoneless and with all my loved ones either running behind me or at the finish line, the hour until we were reunited was excruciating. The anger, guilt and heartbreak I still feel today will never go away. But running the 2014 Boston Marathon will help me heal my mind. My loved ones weren't harmed, but not a day goes by that I don't think of those who were. I told myself that day that I was done running Boston. It was too hard. I'll find easier, less brutal marathons. But the resolve and strength of the victims not only inspired me to run a marathon this fall, but it motivated me join the fundraising team for the Challenged Athlete Foundation, which has started working with marathon bombing victims in their recoveries. I'll push myself in August in the NYC Triathlon and hope -- before that -- to finish the 2014 Boston Marathon in honor of those who won't ever give up, who I won't ever forget. Thank you for considering my request.
Katie Pratt, 24, Boston
The day of the marathon, I was hemming and hawing about where I would go to watch my best friend complete her first Boston Marathon, I had friends watching in Kenmore Square, friends in Wellesley and a friend going to the Joe Andruzzi sponsored event at Forum. That morning, I made a last minute decision to buy a ticket to the event that would change my life forever. I was about 10 feet away from the second bomb, standing outside on the patio at Forum. In the blast, I had my sunglasses and shoes blown off. My feet were cut and I could not hear anything.
That day, I was taken to the hospital to have glass extracted from cuts in my feet and to have my ears examined for permanent hearing loss, I was so lucky. I still had my legs, my feet, my arms -- I can still run. For me, running has been therapy, I run for those that cannot, I run to honor those that lost their lives at the marathon, I run to support those who were not able to finish, I run because I still can. Running the Boston Marathon has been on my mind since the events last year on April 15th. I want to run to show my love for this city; the strength of the city, to thank my family, friends & coworkers who have rallied around me to help me heal. Please allow me to be a part of something so special and run the marathon next year -- it truly would mean the world to me.
Anida Sahinovic, 27, Boston
The following year, I supported my friend, Christian Polman who ran it with his father. The year after that I supported my friend Duje Bozikovic.
On April 15, 2013 I came out again to support the runners. It was a great day. Energy was amazing and that feeling to run a marathon one day came again. I will finish it one day, I said to myself, when everyone started to panic.
Memories and images of my war-torn childhood in Bosnia were back, it felt like a war again but this time in Boston. I was heartbroken. But I was still well and alive.
On November 17, 2013 I finished my first marathon in Philadelphia. It was dedicated to Boston and Bosnia, my two favorite, strong and resilient places in the world.
The feeling of running the Boston Marathon is a privilege that only special people can do. I breathe with the city of Boston now, and call myself Bosnian Bostonian. For the gratefulness of being well and living in this city, I want to train and be a strong woman who will run Boston and celebrate life. I would proudly carry blue and yellow flag on my shoulders, which happens to be the same colors of my home country flag, running and representing Boston, B.A.A. and Bosnia.
Juliana Schilling, 21, Boston
Dr. Charles Schumacher, 29, Beacon Hill, Boston
Adrian Wright-FitzGerald, 27, Boston
There are no words to express the overwhelming sense of shock and sadness seeing a lifeless, broken body being rolled through the tent as others violently perform CPR to reverse the inevitable.
I believe I am stronger from the experience, but some days I am still overwhelmed by jumbled memories of fear, confusion and blood. I still have anxiety in crowds, jump at loud noises, have difficulty treating severe injuries at work. I don't wish for a second that I wasn't there; I am so glad I was one of the helpers.
I have never been prouder to be a healthcare provider and be part of a medical team that worked seamlessly to save lives. In the aftermath I am lucky to have no physical wounds but I feel like my soul is forever scarred, and part of me will never fully heal.
When I could not return to work for a week after the bombings due to shock, PTSD, anxiety, fear, I was able to run. Slow at first, stopping many times to cry, then longer and longer. Running a marathon has always been a life goal, and I would be honored and blessed to be able to run Boston and turn the heartache we have all suffered into happiness again.