Book Review: Long Mile Home: Boston under Attack, the City’s Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice by Scott Helman and Jenna Russell

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Review by Laura Kapustka

Title: Long Mile Home: Boston under Attack, the City’s Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice
Authors: Scott Helman and Jenna Russell (reporters for The Boston Globe)
Publisher: Dutton

Book Review: Long Mile Home: Boston Under Attack, the City's Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice by Scott Helman and Jenna RussellI first ran the Boston Marathon in 2007. My husband, three children and my father were coming along as my support crew. Although it would be the ninth marathon that I had run, it would be my first Boston Marathon and the first one in which my dad would see me run. As a runner, participating in the Boston Marathon is a pinnacle—a crowning jewel in your collection of medals. Because of the marathon’s qualifying time requirement, it’s not easy to get a race bib. A runner either has to have the speed to qualify or the connections to raise thousands of dollars to run in support of a charity.

My first run in Boston was setting up to be an amazing experience; however, as luck would have it, Mother Nature had different plans for the marathon that year. A nor’easter nearly caused the marathon to be canceled. The rain and wind stopped only for a brief period during our entire time in Boston. Although I finished the marathon, I told myself that I would come back and run it again—when it would be a “normal” Boston. My return to run a “normal” Boston was to be in 2013. Sadly, Dad passed away in 2009 and wouldn’t be on our return trip.

The Boston Marathon has been held annually on Patriot’s Day for over one hundred years. Race day is a treasured day for the residents of Boston—businesses are closed, the Red Sox play a home game, the city is in celebration mode. The people of Boston and those in the cities along the racecourse come together on this day to celebrate “their” marathon.

In Long Mile Home, Helman and Russell have provided a recount of the bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon. The authors have gathered accounts of the event through the eyes of the injured, first responders, elected officials, and race personnel. The perspective from each group provides a personal reflection of the events of the day as they experienced it.

There were three people killed at the finish line of the marathon. The authors provide a look into the lives of these three victims and the chain of events that brought them to the marathon and to the spot where they were standing at the time of the explosion. An eight-year-old boy, a graduate student, and a young lady from Boston lost their lives that day. It is difficult to understand how the two bombs only claimed three lives. Making sense of the losses of that day will never be possible. Those killed and injured at the 2013 Boston Marathon were there supporting loved ones or just there because it was the Boston Marathon and that’s what people do on Patriot’s Day in Boston.

In addition to the tragic loss of these three lives, there was much more damage inflicted by the bombs. Several individuals required amputations, and many others sustained other injuries; emotional damage was extensive. The authors provide a respectful view into the lives of a few of the injured and the struggle of one woman who is trying to find her new normal and figure out how to move on. Many of these details were not part of the stories shared by the media.

The authors provide some details of the Tsarnaev family and the upbringing of the two that were responsible for the bombing. The Tsarnaev family fled to America with the desire to immerse themselves into the American dream. What seemed to be a normal family initially deteriorated over the years as the family broke down and their anger and hatred toward America simmered until finally boiling over on April 15, 2013.

The book transforms the reader into the middle of the events leading up to and immediately preceding the 2013 marathon. The authors have captured the rally of the city through detailed descriptions of the many acts of heroism, once again providing proof of the goodness of mankind.

Although much of the book reflects what was shared by the media in 2013, it is presented in a captivating way and will be a resource for future generations to read and learn about the events of the 2013 marathon bombing.

I was one of the fortunate who finished the marathon prior to the explosion. I finished in just under four hours, and the explosions occurred while I was shuffling to get my finisher’s medal and my runner’s blanket. After the first explosion, I searched the faces of the other runners to read their expressions—rumor was that scaffolding had fallen, so we continued our shuffle. After the second explosion and the direction to “run,” it was evident that it was not scaffolding that had fallen, but we weren’t clear what we were running from. It would not be until thirty minutes or so later that the media started to provide details. Many memories that will forever be etched in my memory were stirred in reading the book’s description of experiences from the finish line.

Running the 2013 Boston Marathon was not the “normal” that I had hoped for. After that day, I made another pact with myself—I would go back and run again in 2014. But this time my goal was different—I wanted to support the people of Boston and their marathon. I wanted to be part of an event that would show the rest of the world that America is unified, not divided, during challenging times.

The 2014 Boston Marathon was not “normal”—it was much greater than that. The crowds were larger, the support greater than ever. It appeared that the city that I had returned to support was actually there to support me. Strangers on trains, restaurants, and sidewalks approached me and thanked me for returning to run—once again showing how Boston Strong they truly are.

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