A runner writes: At Boston, ‘we cried for a different reason’

Mike Gangwer was running his 199th marathon on April 15 when the explosions went off near the finish line.

It was his 14th in Boston and the only marathon he has not finished.

Gangwer, a 1971 Hood River Valley High School graduate who grew up in Parkdale and now lives in Alma, Mich., gave relief to his many concerned friends with his Facebook post Monday letting them know he was all right — physically, at least.

“Thank you all again for your concern about the tragedy in Boston today,” Gangwer wrote on Facebook. “Yes, I was here running my 14th Boston and yet within the last just-less-than-half-mile to go, we runners heard the blasts and then saw the smoke plume.

“The Boston Police stopped the race and secured the area, so thousands of us never got to cross the finish line.

“This is not important,” he wrote. “What is is the loss of life and over a hundred people with trauma injuries.

“I am out of the city now, and cold and tired and checked into a hotel for the night. I will drive home tomorrow, and decompress, and whilst on the journey home, think about how fortunate I was not to be four minutes sooner and thus right on the finish line.”

He posted again once he returned home the next day:

“I drove home today and could not listen to the news. I feel traumatized and this is not about being weak, but honest with what we all went through.

“This was my 199th marathon and the first one not crossing the finish line. Someone or a group of someones took that away from not only me but several thousand others. And the loss of life and trauma injuries at the finish line spectator section is almost unbearable for me to work through.

“I usually cried after crossing the finish line in the early years, the emotional feeling of finishing the oldest and most prestigious marathon in the world was that powerful. Yesterday, we cried for a different reason.


Mike Gangwer: “Here at Hopkinton at the staging area. Race starts in 115 minutes. I am thrilled to be here again — my 14th Boston.”

“One short story: A young Asian runner standing next to us was shivering so much that she was turning blue. We still were not allowed to leave the holding area and we had no extra clothes. So five of us pressed our bodies next to her and began to massage her over her entire body.

“After 15 minutes or so she warmed up and with pink lips now, kissed each one of us.

“This was Boston yesterday, and is repeated everywhere when people come together as strangers and depart as common shares. I’ll not forget this very special moment, one of many.”

When contacted by the News Thursday, Gangwer was understandably still shaken.

“I find myself emotionally traumatized,” he said. “I really believed I would be OK. I was deployed overseas for four years and saw manifestations of enormous suffering and cruelty.

“But perhaps because I have seen these, I am experiencing these here again at a deeper level,” he said. “I am sure others feel this way, too.

“I ran the course already 13 times so I know the sweep of emotions that flood over every one of us at the finish line,” he said. “For those there this year for the first time, it is lost. I grieve for them.

“But I grieve more for those standing on the sidewalk behind the barrier, waiting, waiting, waiting for their husband, father, sister, cousin, lover, or just a friend to see the look on their face as they cross the finish line, but were tragically injured or killed.

“We cannot make rational sense of this,” he said. “I cry every time I think about Monday. I am grateful that this was not my time. But every day is certainly a little closer to joyful living and participation.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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