Boston Marathon bombing reminds us sports can be a target, too

Posted Monday, Apr. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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engel Chimene Fikkert finished her first Boston Marathon with a time of 4 hours, 3 minutes, 20 seconds. A little more than six minutes later, the bombs exploded.

“I had just gotten my water and my blanket,” Fikkert said. “It was loud enough that it got everyone’s attention. I thought something had exploded in the sky, like a helicopter. We all looked at the sky and realized it was a bomb.”

The immediate reaction from the many volunteers who run this race was to keep the crowd walking away from the explosion and chaos. Fikkert described a scene that was not panic but tense.

“There was all of this brown smoke and stuff, and we were just all stunned. I was, ‘Oh my gosh, that was a bomb,’” she said.

Fikkert had just completed the marathon with her spouse and two friends from Fort Worth. At the time she called me on Monday afternoon, about 90 minutes after she finished, all four were accounted for and OK.

Fikkert is a pediatrician in Arlington and sounded shaken as she described the tragedy that had unfolded before her eyes a few hours before. She said she was a little “shaken up.”

If you haven’t already, add “Sporting Events” and “Marathon Running” to the growing list of potential terrorist targets that has forever changed the way we think about just about anything from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Monday was just another tragic reminder of the vulnerability of a sporting event. Just another reminder that the easier, and safer, option is to just stay home and watch life go by on TV.

Fikkert won’t be doing that, and neither should any of us.

I asked Fikkert if she would run Boston again.

“Sure. If I was ever, God willing, to qualify again, I would sure do this again,” she said.

Monday was the 13th career marathon for Fikkert and the first time she had ever qualified for the Boston run. Qualifying and completing this race is one of the great achievements of any amateur sporting event.

“I guess they are saying it’s terrorism; it’s so sad when you think that this type of stuff happens in the world we live in. It’s a tragedy,” she said. “For the people who run this, the Boston Marathon is a dream come true and, for so many people who work so hard to get here, it’s so sad something like this happens. Not that it’s any less sad anywhere, ever. This is a great event that celebrates accomplishment and achievement and to have something like this happen — it’s just really sad.”

She and her friends were scheduled to go out and celebrate in Boston on Monday evening. They were scheduled to return home Tuesday morning.

“This is not how I wanted this to be at all,” she said. “I wanted to cross the line with my friends and have a picture taken with my friends. Now this just clouds all of it for everybody, more so for the people who suffered real loss. It’s a cloud over all of it. I am grateful I had this opportunity, but right now we’re just going to try to get our friends here and safely home.”

The plan now was to remain in their hotel before it was time to take a cab to the airport.

As a practicing physician, Fikkert understands the clinical concept of loss a little better than the untrained. She understands death is a part of life.

As a devout Christian, she understands this concept on a higher plane.

“I do believe that God knows the days of your life are numbered before I was ever born,” she said. “When it’s time, it’s time.”

She later sent to her many concerned friends on her Facebook page that she does not understand why this happened.

Random acts of senseless violence do not require explanation because there is no just rationalization for such cruelty. Detonating a pair of bombs in the middle of a crowded finish line serves no real political endgame. The terrorist attack in the ’72 Olympics was directed at a specific group of Israelis with a brutal, but specific, agenda. The Palestinian terrorists didn’t target the crowd.

Monday’s act offered no such ambitious goals other than to inflict death and fear on those who have nothing to do with anything other than just trying to have a decent day or, in this case, celebrate a lifetime’s goal.

Innocence once again takes a shot to the head, and the collateral damage will be even more fear than we had before this race began.

The person who signs on for standing in the line of fire — whether it’s military, police or fire — knows bad things may happen.

When Fikkert, or the thousands of others, signed on to run the Boston Marathon, she thought the worst thing that could happen might be a sprained ankle or some running-related injury. Not this.

But this is our world.

Sports are just another target.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @macengelprof

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