Like citizens across the United States, I spent much of my Patriots Day wondering how a peaceful sports tradition could turn so unbelievably heartbreaking.
The images broadcast and posted online from the explosive incidents at the end of the Boston Marathon sent chills up the spine and brought back terrible memories and feelings of 911, the bombing in Oklahoma City, and unfortunately, too many other senseless acts of violence.
By the time the explosions happened, the most competitive runners had departed the finish area; those crossing the finish line probably consider completing the storied race a triumph in itself.
Months of training and mounds of dedication are needed to qualify and then conquer the 26-plus mile event, dubbed the world's oldest marathon. It attracts not only elite athletes from around the world, but also military veterans, cancer survivors, even those who race in wheelchairs.
For anyone to target innocent athletes, as well as children, families, security personnel and the general public is unfathomable; for it to happen during a world-renowned sporting event is more than unfortunate.
Tragically, this is unlikely to be the last such incident on U.S. soil.
Triumphantly, the American spirit responded in the personas of rescue workers, doctors, good Samaritans and kind bystanders who rise to the challenge and help others. It is also evident in the community of social media, sending thoughts and prayers to friends and strangers across the country.
We often refer to athletes as heroes; at this Boston Marathon, the heroes wore many different kinds of uniforms, from running shoes to street clothes; their efficient and compassionate reactions providing the first strike back against pointless brutality.
Pictures frozen in time include athletes, with their race numbers still on their chests, running to help injured onlookers; parents pushing a stroller fleeing the chaos behind them; runners embracing and comforting each other with spatters of blood painting the road and sidewalks around them.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, sporting events became havens of peace where communities from Central Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh to New York City gathered to grieve the loss of life and the nation's innocence, but also to celebrate and embrace the spirit of America, and the promise that we would overcome.
With this incident, the sanctuary of sport itself was shattered; the events of this Boston Marathon will not soon be forgotten.
Fred Lebow, co-founder of the New York City Marathon once said, "The marathon is a charismatic event. It has everything. It has drama. It has competition. It has camaraderie. It has heroism. Every jogger can't dream of being an Olympic champion, but he can dream of finishing a marathon."
While the dream of finishing this year's Boston Marathon was overshadowed by violence, the bomb blast revealed the heroism of many as well as the camaraderie of a city and a nation.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at email@example.com. Her column appears on Tuesdays.