The Boston marathon has been a traditional pilgrimage for my family every year for as far back as I can remember. Last year my father turned 50 and his birthday wish was to run the marathon with all four of his children. My siblings and I split the marathon route so we could each run with and support my father.

I had never run in such a large event. When I was 12 or so I ran a 5k with my father and grandfather in Disney (Since then I had not continued my long distance training). I was skipping school to do something with my family; it was the best kind of day. I didn’t even mind waking up at the early hour of 8am to run the first 7 or so miles with my dad. The kids on the side of the road cheering and giving out high fives kept my under-trained, over-promised and out of shape legs churning. The energy stayed high every step of the way. It was truly an amazing honor. In Framingham I tagged my youngest brother in as my replacement and headed back to my parents’ house to grab my things before heading back to Long Island for a midterm.

Somewhere on 95 south en route to New York I got a flurry of  text messages asking if I was ok. I was tired and my legs felt like Jell-O but it was my own fault for not training. I was as ok as I was oblivious. Until the texts became increasingly ominous and I turned the radio on just in time to hear the announcer say, ‘There have now been two explosions at the finish line. We don’t have any more information as of now. Stay tuned for updates.’

My stomach fell to the floor near my feet. I pulled over and began frantically calling family members. My other brother or my sister could be there with my dad. "I hope my mom hit traffic. Dad's old so he’s probably tired. I’m sure he’s fine."

There was still no way to contact family members as the city’s cellular signal had been cut to prevent any other remote devices going off. I got out of my car and began panting and doing this weird angry-sobbing thing. Cars whizzed by and in the breaks between the commuters I could hear my own ragged breathing and it sounded foreign and distant. My phone rang and mom gave me the all clear. We were all fine. I began to breathe normally again.

April 15, 2013 was a dichotomy of a day. It was the day I was prouder than I had ever been to be a Bostonian and also the day I felt the most terrible fear I have ever felt. This year was different. There were a lot of tense precautions, an obtrusive, untrustworthy build up to the main event.

Growing up in and outside of Boston with my family, was a lot like growing up with a big family that is a part of an even bigger family. Everyone looks out for each other, helps when they can, and genuinely cares. That’s the part that matters – the compassion.

So last April, when those pressure cookers went off, it was like everyone in your family, everyone you have ever known got punched in the stomach at the same time and you felt it too. So while we were all reeling, sucking in wind, the people who punched us thought they’d get away. Not in this city.

Boston is comprised of people who are often characters in film. You don’t just mess around like that in Boston. We are to be respected, feared, and revered. We are like the mascot of our hockey team. We are all Bruins. We are majestic in our own way. We sound a little funny, but if you hurt one of us, especially one of our young, we will track you down and you will regret everything you’ve ever done.

Monday was a triumphant day for a city that has spent a year healing from dreadful emotional and physical wounds. This marathon has always been as much for the people of Boston and the city of Boston. Every year runners who are growing tired are cheered on by spectators, and this year the cheering was nearly fanatical. 

High fives and words of encouragement were distributed freely by the masses who gathered to cheer on both the runners and our city. The events of last year in no way kept people from celebrating the marathon. The number of runners was boosted by an additional 9,000 and the number of spectators must have doubled. The streets were simply packed. Stuart Street was full of pedestrians, runners, and families, a testament to the people of this city.

We are proud. We are brave. We are Boston Strong.