John Anderson: Boston events will turn fears into cheers
Cellphones are unique to the old system of communication. You don't get busy signals and you know if a text went through
I have only heard “all circuits are busy” once in my life with cellphones — when I tried to call my brother Michael during the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Mike had an interview near the towers and had no idea what was going on. He came up from the subway to see one plane had hit a tower and decided to keep his distance.
I think he finally reached me by pay phone.
Once I knew he was OK, I had to ask him, “Can I ask you a few questions for the paper. ...”
Monday was another marathon for Michael, who has run from New York to Miami and in Germany.
I was going to check his time online at the Boston Marathon, text or call him and let him celebrate. But people asked me if he was OK. I had no idea what they meant. Like most participants, no one could get a hold of him. His Facebook wall was full of concerning posts.
We have the Associated Press wire here. They shoot, we decide at our discretion what to use. The first photo I opened had bodies laying in the road, blood and what appeared to be a body part.
I frantically called Michael's cellphone. And the eerie voice came over the line, “all circuits are busy. Please try your call again later.”
Runner Bill Iffrig was knocked down from the blast. He may have had a concussion. He was helped up by three men and the photo will appear on the front page of Sports Illustrated.
Just seconds seconds ahead of him, Kirsten Ripple, a Hornell native who lives in South Boston, also felt the blast at the finish line and the force pushed her forward.
Debris was flying. She just ran over 26 miles and now she has to run for cover?
All she saw was smoke, then heard a second explosion. It was time for her second marathon of the day, but this one was a sprint as she left the scene.
Where Ripple got the energy to stop and start and sprint is beyond me. The mind is usually the first thing to go when you are running, as your legs are just churning away. You need warmth at the finish line, you need quick fluids and sometimes a snack.
She asked to use a cell phone and call her family.
“All circuits are busy ...”
Ripple pressed on, but in the opposite direction. She had a meeting spot with her family about a mile and a half before the finish line. What's another couple miles at this point?
Around this time, a text message came up on my phone.
My brother Mike was OK. He was two blocks from the blast and was evacuated from the area.
I was able to get back to work. Eventually, phone service was restored and I talked to Mike.
Once I knew he was OK, I had to ask him, “Can I ask you a few questions for the paper ...”
Meanwhile, Kirsten had mixed emotions, as she should.
The joy she felt when her family hugged her had now turned to anger.
See, Kirsten wasn't running for a personal goal, a better time or to prove anything to herself. She was running for charity. And this meant a lot to her. She gave up a lot of time to train, to get her body and mind ready for the day.
My brother loves to run. He loves the Boston Marathon as much as he loves the Hornell YMCA 5K Turkey Trot. There is competition and fellowship.
But after witnessing two of America's high-profile attacks, I wondered if he would go to Boston again.
“I sure will,” he said in a simple text.
As for Kirsten? She didn't plan on it. But now? “You're not going to scare us away,” she said. “We're going to come back with a vengeance.”
And so should we.
You don't have to run, but you can show you are not going to live in fear.
You can make a donation to Kirsten's charity next year. I know I am.
And there is no way I'm getting another “all circuits are busy.”
I'll be cheering my brother at the finish line.
John Anderson is the regional editor of the Evening Tribune, Daily Reporter and Sunday Spectator in New York.