BYU student survives Boston bombings

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The struggle and triumph thousands of athletes experience running up Heartbreak Hill took on a whole different meaning, a meaning that BYU student Heather Brown now understands all too well.

Brown was in a medical tent when the attack at the Boston Marathon finish line took place. She experienced the fear that came with not being able to contact family members and not having a full understanding about what had happened.

(Courtesy of Heather Brown)
Picture taken at the site of the second bomb just just before it was detonated. (Courtesy of Heather Brown)

After preparing for four years to run the Boston Marathon, Brown was finally able to compete. The day before the race, Brown went to a convention center to pick up her race bib. There were thousands of people inside, and she started to feel a bit uneasy.

“The thought hit me in the convention center that there were so many people here and something bad could happen so easily,” Brown said. “It was just a little feeling I had.”

The next morning, Brown gathered at Athlete Village with all of the other runners. A sports psychologist came in and gave what Brown described as a “pump-up speech,” and excitement took over nerves. Throughout the race, Brown was cheered on by spectators and enjoyed the race.

“It was the coolest race of my life,” she said. “I had ‘Utah’ on my bib, and I could hear people yelling, ‘Go, Utah’ as I was running. I had a huge smile on my face and was having a good time.”

The course proved to be difficult, and with two miles left in the race, Brown focused in on reaching the finish line. She was no longer smiling, due to the pain she was in, but was determined to finish. Upon crossing the finish line, Brown started to fall when she was helped by volunteers and escorted to the medical tent.

“I got an IV, and I was told I was dehydrated,” Brown said. “After they had taken care of me, I was walking out of the tent towards the finish line when a physical therapist offered to give me a massage. I had just been lying down for a minute when the first bomb went off.”

At first, people were reassuring Brown and telling her there was nothing to worry about. But then, people covered in blood were being ushered into the medical tent and she knew something was wrong.

“I was really confused after the loud boom had sounded, but when people covered in blood started to walk in, I knew something was seriously wrong,” Brown said. “It got to the point where I had to leave the tent because I didn’t want to see all these poor people covered in blood.”

Fortunately for Brown, her parents had been notified when she went to the medical tent after the race. They had been watching runners prior to that phone call in the area where the second bomb went off.

“It was a blessing, I think, that I went to the medical tent and they were notified,” Brown said. “Who knows what would have happened.”

Even though Brown was happy to have her parents with her, she had four siblings and a nephew scattered throughout the course. That is when real panic started to settle in.

“I was so worried because I thought they were at the finish line,” Brown said. “I was planning on meeting them at the finish line also, to cheer on the other runners.”

As she was leaving the medical tent, Brown saw people standing still and unable to act.

“There were some people who were frozen because they did not know what had happened,” Brown said. “People were staring at me because I was crying and they didn’t get it yet because they didn’t know what had just happened.”

Because of the overwhelming amount of phone calls and other forms of communication, Brown and her parents were not able to get in touch with the other members of her family for a period of time.

“There was panic everywhere, and people were crying and hugging each other,” Brown said. “I was crying too, because I was confused and we didn’t know where my family was. There was so much confusion, and it was just pure chaos.”

After what seemed like an eternity, Brown was able to finally get in contact with her siblings during a short period of time when cell phone service was restored, and the family all met up.

“It was terrifying and so confusing,” Brown said. “I’m just so glad my family is safe.”

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