The Boston Marathon is a joyous occasion. A sea of spectators outlines Boylston Street to cheer and encourage waves of runners in bright shirts and colorful sneakers. A woman runs by pushing a young girl curled up in a wheelchair. “You’re doing great!”, yells someone in the crowd. Sid holds my hand and we make our way down the last 0.2 miles.

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Then we hear a boom. It makes us silent. Fireworks, maybe? A celebration? I look at the sky. Nothing. I notice the building windows vibrating from the shock. I turn to walk in the opposite direction. The second explosion comes from across the street. This time, I know it is a bomb. Malicious. Intentional. You’ve got to be kidding me. Air pushes violently against my chest. Gray-white smoke rises from buildings. The plume grows quickly and envelopes a crowd of people. I think the building is collapsing. I reach for my camera. No, Lina! Dumb. Screaming begins. Sid and I look at each other and start to run. “Sid. Don’t let go of my hand,” I say in a voice I’ve never heard.

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The Blonde Hair covers her ears as she runs and cries, “Oh god, oh god, oh god…” Two Asian Women trip and slide against the pavement in front of me. I grab her camera and purse, which had flown away, and put them back in the younger woman’s hands. Her glasses are bent and her lip is bleeding. “Are you okay?” I stare into her face, focusing on her swollen lip. The two women hold onto each other and start walking away. I expect anything and everything to blow up around me.

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Sid and I were standing across the street from the second bomb (Image adapted from the NYTimes).

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The Prudential Tower is small now. Sid and I catch our breath. On this deserted brownstone street, only police and ambulance sirens remind me that something is wrong. Terribly wrong. “We were so lucky.” “Was it destiny?” I try to joke with Sid. A couple of hours ago he said it was destiny that our bus arrived just as we got to the stop. “No,” he looks at me. “That was just dumb luck.” Another ambulance whizzes by.

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Sid and I come to a barricaded street with marathon runners still going. We jump the fence. “You can’t go through here!” An officer stops us. What’s wrong with you? There’s just been a bomb! Let me go home. I look at him in disbelief but do as I’m told. I follow the crowd as we are ushered several blocks down into a narrow intersection. This big crowd in a small space seems like a bad idea. The green line subway drives by.

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An hour and a half later, Sid and I cross the BU bridge out of Boston, into Cambridge, and onto my street. Two workers are planting pansies in the garden. Sid and I let go hands and I realize that he has been holding really tight.

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In the apartment we turn on the news and start to watch re-plays of the bombings. It looks and feels just like any other bad thing that is played on TV. It doesn’t feel like the place we were at. We keep watching, wanting to get answers, but knowing that every replay of that same video turns toxic inside our minds. Sid and I hold each other tight. “You were good, cutie,” he says and squeezes tighter.  “You crouched down after the first explosion.” “I did?” “Yeah. You don’t remember that? After the first bomb you dropped to your knees. After the second one, we ran.”

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Once I’m safe and at home, all these stupid thoughts start to surge. It would have been okay to take a picture… Why didn’t I look around more... I should have stuck around to help… I start to understand survivor’s guilt. In hindsight, obviously there were only two bombs. After hours of watching replays of the “twin bombings,” it is easy to forget the moment. I have to remind myself that after the second bomb, all I knew to be true in the world was that more explosions were coming and I just needed to get out.
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There is a woman pushing a wheelchair at the bottom left of this picture... the first mother-daughter wheelchair team to ever run the Boston Marathon. Sid and I saw them when we turned onto Boylston Street. (Image from Boston Globe)

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The next day I put on a locket with a picture of my stuffed animal bunny, Fofinho, whom I’ve had since age 4. He represents all the people who love and protect me in this world and I want to have that close to my heart today. As I walk to school, I see a person wearing a marathon jacket and I resent her. Whenever I’m outside, I catch myself grinding my teeth. I’m prepared for a bomb to go off. The scenes from yesterday replay in my mind as I rehearse Beethoven, draw bode plots, and especially, when I hear sirens.

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I wasn’t hurt and neither were my friends. I am not a victim. Quite simply, I was there. I was lucky. I survived a terrorist attack and this is my story.