Long Mile Home: Boston Under Attack, the City's Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice

BOOK: Long Mile Home: Boston Under Attack, the City's Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice
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Helman, Scott.

Long mile home : Boston under attack, the city's courageous recovery, and the epic hunt for justice / Scott Helman and Jenna Russell, reporters for the Boston Globe.

pages cm

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-0-525-95448-4 (hardcover)

1. Boston Marathon Bombing, Boston, Mass., 2013. 2. Terrorism—Massachusetts—Boston—Case studies. 3. Bombing investigation—Massachusetts—Case studies. I. Russell, Jenna, 1970- II. Title.

HV6432.8.H45 2014



Helman, Scott.

ISBN 978-0-698-15724-8 (eBook)

While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers, Internet addresses, and other contact information at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


To those who lost their lives on April 15, 2013, and those whose lives were forever altered


Title Page



About This Book

Laced up and pointed toward the sea



Five lives, one race


Two brothers in descent


Perfect day for a marathon


Gathering on the sidelines


Agony on Boylston Street



Terror comes into focus


Saving lives, against the odds


Three voices, silenced


From billions of pixels, a break


Somber morning, violent night


Hell in a Mercedes


Bullets in the dark


In a silent city, the hunt begins anew


“He’s in custody! He’s in custody!”



Starting toward normal


The only way forward


Radical views and unsolved murders


The marathon man finishes the race


Standing tall, Heather forges ahead


Living with the memory of April


The road beyond





About This Book

Long Mile Home
is the product of an enormous team effort by the
Boston Globe
staff to capture the full magnitude of the Boston Marathon attack on April 15, 2013, and its many repercussions. The authors are indebted to each and every colleague who contributed to the paper’s coverage, an extraordinary body of work in which this book is grounded.

As of this writing in late 2013, the surviving bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, had not been convicted of any crimes in the case. The accounts and descriptions, in
Long Mile Home
, of his alleged acts during Marathon Week are based on the criminal indictment against him; interviews with witnesses, law enforcement officials, and other sources; and news reports.


Laced up and pointed toward the sea

hat you see first, after the starting gun’s crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill on a twisting two-lane road, a kinetic rainbow of tank tops, radiant T-shirts, race-day costumes, visors, headbands, and hats. It is a thrilling sight every year, these opening moments of the Boston Marathon, in a part of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, known as Cookie’s Corner, named for a longtime townie who used to man the starting line. Here, the fast and the slow, the agile and the aging, the big names and the also-rans all begin their unison descent to Boston’s Copley Square, 26.2 miles away in the heart of the city.

Runners have assembled at this spot for decades, carrying their hopes, their mettle, and their anxieties under the bib numbers on their chests. Each has imagined that exultant moment at the finish, muscles aching, arms thrust skyward, a sweet sensation of relief and satisfaction. But those visions begin here, 490 feet above sea level, with a dash over the letters that say, simply,
, hand-stenciled across a road just thirty-nine feet wide, nestled between a tranquil town green and a weathered cemetery. Hopkinton’s small-town charm signals just how far away the finish line lies, on Boylston Street, a crowded thoroughfare at the feet of Boston’s tallest skyscrapers. Indeed, it’s easy to forget, at the start, the hard realities of running 26.2 miles, the difficult hours that always come. Adrenaline throbs beneath the skin. The crowd is expectant, its enthusiasm infectious. All this excitement, this unique sensation of participating in the world’s most storied road race, puts air under your feet: For the first few miles, you feel as though you’re floating.

The Boston Marathon, for many runners, is the crown jewel of road races, difficult to qualify for but a joy to run once you’re in. It is not, however, just the province of elites. The magic of the Boston Marathon is the breadth of participation, its invitation to both top athletes and recreational runners competing for charity. There is room for both Shalane Flanagan, one of the country’s leading woman runners, and Orange Man, aka Alain Ferry, a Boston Web entrepreneur who sometimes runs in his gleaming, full-body spandex suit, stopping along the way to take pictures with friends, dance, and high-five spectators, downing beers as he goes. The race is at once a collective and deeply personal endeavor, the confluence of thousands of individual goals, stories, causes, experiences, triumphs, and disappointments.

At heart, the Boston Marathon honors something very simple. It celebrates life’s constructive forces: good health, fellowship, hard work, discipline, philanthropy, and a belief that we can push ourselves to greater heights, especially alongside others reaching for them, too. In the words of Olympic champion Frank Shorter, “
Running is an affirmative act.” To line up in Hopkinton is to put your hand up and say:
Me, too

Some run to raise money for causes close to their hearts—cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism—often competing in the name or memory of a loved one. Some hope to crack the top spots, to cement their status in the running hierarchy. Some aspire just to make it to the finish, a feat they will brag about to friends and relatives over backyard beers, or with an oval 26.2 sticker on the bumper of their car. Most approach the start knowing that out there, along the snaking course, are spouses, children, parents, neighbors, cousins, siblings, coworkers. They know much of Greater Boston will be out there, too, with cheers, whistles, bongo drums, homemade signs, kelly green Boston Celtics T-shirts, high fives, water bottles, orange slices, Gatorade, energy gel, dogs, babies, singing, and beer. In a sense, there are no spectators; everyone is a participant, part of a time-tested ritual on the most cherished day of the Boston calendar.

Every April, Massachusetts halts to mark Patriot’s Day, as it has for more than a century, in part to commemorate the opening battles of the Revolutionary War. The whiff of revolution has long faded, but the spirit of the old town endures—plucky, proudly independent, and fiercely protective of tradition. And there is hardly a bigger tradition than Marathon Monday. The day typically kicks off spring break for public school students statewide. It heralds the arrival of a hard-earned spring. It brings a special morning game for the beloved Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. It’s a chance to breathe in a place that defines high-strung, a chance for Boston to put aside, at least for a moment, its tribalism and fractiousness, to welcome outsiders to a town not always known for its hospitality. To celebrate the top runners but also the stragglers, the strivers, and the hobbyists, all of them laced up and pointed toward the sea.

As runners make their way eastward, the landmarks begin to unfold: the old train depot in Framingham Center, around the six-mile mark, its more urban setting a hint of the big city that lies ahead; the tidy brick façades of Natick’s town center, where the crowds begin to build; the women of Wellesley College, perched like birds on a long stone wall, their invigorating roar audible from hundreds of feet away; the unwelcome incline of Heartbreak Hill, the last of seven slopes in suburban Newton that test runners’ endurance of mind and body; the ebullience of Boston College students at the crest, eager to tempt with a cold brew; the iconic CITGO sign in Kenmore Square, lit up like the city’s year-round Christmas tree, beckoning runners toward the homestretch; and then the bulging crowds toward the finish line. As runners cross the finish, a blue-and-yellow adhesive laid on Boylston Street, there by the Boston Public Library, their names are read individually over a public address system. They complete the race alone, on their own power. But in running Boston, these men and women share a fraternity unlike anything else in American sport.

 • • • 

n April 15, 2013, the rituals renew for the 117th year. Veteran runners come prepared with their superstitions, their traditions, their routines. First-timers forge their own. In Hopkinton on this morning, among some 23,000 other competitors, is Vicma Lamarche, a thirty-two-year-old marketing specialist from Boston running her first Boston Marathon. She nibbles on boiled eggs and a sweet potato she has brought in a Glad container, on the advice of a nutritionist. Tom Mitchell, a forty-eight-year-old software engineer from nearby Lexington, is also running his first Boston. The charity team he belongs to gathers at a house near the starting line, where Mitchell trades jokes with other runners and eats his customary prerun meal: a banana, a honey wheat bagel from Price Chopper, and Peanut Butter & Co.’s Smooth Operator peanut butter. Amy Formica, a thirty-nine-year-old ultramarathoner from Pennsylvania, arms herself for the morning cold, putting on gloves, arm warmers, and a jacket for the early miles.

The runners these days all have timing tags in their bibs, allowing anyone to track their progress electronically. When Vicma Lamarche stomps across the first checkpoint, knowing her family will get an automated message, she says aloud, “This is for you, Victoria!” dedicating the milestone to her four-year-old daughter waiting down the course. Amy Formica wants to be home in bed. Through the early miles, she feels horrible.
Why am I doing this?
she thinks to herself. She fights on, finally finding her rhythm about twenty miles in. At Kenmore Square, steps from Fenway, Joann Kwah, a thirty-six-year-old doctor-in-training at Boston Medical Center, grows euphoric, believing she has passed a critical threshold: Having made it this far, nothing will stop her from finishing her first-ever marathon.
Bucket list: check.
The theme from
blares in her head, her smile a mile wide.

Michelle Hall, who is fifty-three and owns a science education company in Los Alamos, New Mexico, is running with a banner to honor a friend with brain cancer, who had qualified for Boston but was unable to come because of recent surgery. About halfway through, Hall puts her foot down and tears a muscle in her hip, screaming in agony. She tries to continue. People in the crowd around her catch sight of her name on a label stuck to her shirt. “Michelle, you look awesome!” they yell. “You look great, girl!” She starts to cry and keeps going, making it to mile nineteen, where a physical therapist she knows only as John gives her a massage. (In keeping with the spirit of the marathon, she doesn’t flinch when he pulls her shorts down a bit to find the trouble spot; she tells him she loves him.) A mile later, Hall leans against a display table to ease the pain. She looks up and notices a red Solo cup six inches from her face. She glances at a man standing nearby.

“Is that cold beer?” Hall asks him.

“Yes,” he says. “Do you want it?”


“Go ahead.”

She hoists the cup to her lips. The crowd gives an encouraging cheer. She chugs it.
What the heck
, she thinks.
This is either going to do me in or get me to the finish line

Tom Mitchell’s left knee is giving him hell, but he tries to run through the pain, gaining momentum into the homestretch. He passes his kids before the final turn, high-fiving them, and then rounds onto Boylston, his arms raised in victory. He approaches the twenty-six-mile marker, which this year has a special flag that pays tribute, with twenty-six gold stars, to the victims of the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. He veers over to the flag and touches it with his right hand. Then he starts back toward the center of the road. The finish line is mere blocks away.

 • • • 

h my gosh—she must be mentally ill
, Nicole McGurin thinks.
Why does she have a number?
McGurin, a forty-year-old from west of Boston who works for the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, is on Beacon Street in Brookline, about to enter Boston, eager to complete her second Boston Marathon. A woman on the course, another runner, begins yelling about a bomb going off, shouting to anyone willing to listen. No one pays her much heed. Everyone races by her: a crazy person on the corner, that’s all. A little ways behind McGurin, Vicma Lamarche turns to her right and sees a group of people watching TV in front of an apartment building. Images of an explosion fill the screen, but she only catches a glimpse. She can’t tell what she’s seeing. Whatever it is, she thinks, it must be happening somewhere else.
Maybe there has been a bombing in Iraq. Maybe there’s a big forest fire in California.

Tom Mitchell’s wife, Christine, forty-eight, a freelance marketer running her fourth consecutive Boston, is less than a mile from the finish. She hears sirens wailing, more than usual, but she assumes this just means lots of runners are battling injuries. That makes sense—she herself has suffered leg cramps today. She begins to see people in street clothes coming toward her, intruding on the race.
The Sox game must be over and Fenway is letting out
, she thinks. Suddenly Lamarche sees police cars race by the runners, recklessly close. “Wow, that’s rude,” she says to herself. “They could totally hit someone.”
Maybe someone fainted
, she thinks. She reaches the twenty-four-mile marker and race officials are pulling up the mat. She hears someone say, “The race is over.” She wonders,
Am I running that slowly?
This must be how it is, she figures. And yet the people streaming out of Fenway, many with a beer or two in them, are cheering her and other runners on. She keeps going.

Michelle Hall looks up to see a gray plume of smoke. A platoon of police, bright vests over their dark uniforms, rush in the direction of the finish line. Tom Mitchell, up ahead of his wife, is just steps from the finish when he hears a tremendous boom. It sounds like a cannon. He thinks perhaps someone special has just crossed—maybe it’s Dick Hoyt, who has pushed his son, Rick, a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, through the course in a wheelchair for more than three decades, their unique bond an inspiration every year.
Maybe this is part of the tradition
, Mitchell thinks.
Maybe this always happens
. Alain Ferry, the Orange Man, has promenaded now through nearly the whole course, posting pictures to Facebook and drinking beer along the way, and is approaching Massachusetts Avenue when he sees his friend Stephen, who is waving him over. Ferry is having a ball. It’s clear that Stephen isn’t, by the stony look on his face. “Something’s wrong,” Stephen tells him. “You can’t keep running.” Stephen’s wife grabs Ferry’s arm. She urges him: “Please don’t run any farther until we know what happened.”

Just up the road, police and race officials establish a barricade, stopping runners at the 25.5-mile marker, less than a mile from the end. “Stay here!” police are yelling. Some 5,752 of the more than twenty-three thousand runners have yet to finish, nearly all of them competing for charity. “Stay right here!” A mass of runners gathers, more and more arriving every second, all of them forced to halt at the bottleneck. They are confused, frustrated, angry. They have nearly finished a marathon. Now they’re being told to go no farther. And they don’t know why.
You cannot do this
, Eduardo Kelly, a fifty-three-year-old physician and marathoner from south of Boston, thinks to himself.
You cannot do this to me
. Their brains are fried, their bodies empty, their legs spent. All they can hear are sirens.

A runner near Joann Kwah pulls out her phone and checks Twitter. “Oh my God,” the woman says, reading aloud reports of explosions at the finish line. The news spreads through the crowd. The details are sketchy but terrifying. Many runners have family at the finish line. They begin sharing cell phones, furiously looking for news about friends and relatives.
My wife is at the finish line
, they’re saying.
My husband. My father. My kids.
It is hard to get through to anyone, the lines are down, communication cut off. A few text messages break through:
There have been explosions; people are hurt
. The runners fear the worst. Some are crying, hysterical. Rumors begin flying. Is this another 9/11? Is this war? No one knows.
All the buildings downtown are still standing
, Nicole McGurin thinks.
How bad can it be?

BOOK: Long Mile Home: Boston Under Attack, the City's Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice
9.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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