NPR

8 runners take on the 2014 Boston Marathon

Third Time’s The Charm!

My journey as a mother began on Feb. 23, 2004. Natalie Grace Burgess was born. She had enough hair for me to braid and her eyes looked like blueberries. She became the love of my life. We tell each other secrets, we sing crazy songs, we turn our kitchen into a dance floor, we watch Giada and Barefoot Contessa. Natalie is determined, motivated and compassionate.

Being her mother is a gift and I stare into her eyes and tell her everyday how beautiful she is. She tries to turn away. I am living this life to show her strength, unconditional love and possibilities. We dream together.

The first marathon I ran was Boston in 2007. The picture above is Natalie on my father’s shoulders. She fell asleep before I crossed the finish line. She teases me: “Mom, it took you too long!”

In 2013 Natalie was probably the most excited for my race. She spent hours making me a sign. She asked me question after question. She was ready to jump out at the finish and run the last steps with me, worrying if “they” would let her.

We looked at the picture above the night before the race and I made her promise not to fall asleep.

I remember the exact moment in the last two miles of my race in 2013 when I pictured Natalie waiting for me at the finish. Her cheering for me and remembering the sign that read: “Mom, you rock.” My legs were numb; I was struggling and my eyes started to tear up. Just two more miles until I see those blueberry eyes.

I had no idea the next two hours would be the most horrific and terrifying hours of my life. The worst nightmare of any parent is to think your children are hurt.

The runners were stopped. Everyone was puzzled and confused but calm. Within minutes I heard the words that would send my body into a panic “finish line” and “bomb.” My children are at the finish; I thought I was going to pass out.

I looked down at my phone and saw two missed calls, one from my brother-in-law and one from a dear friend. This sent me into hysterics; “Why are they calling me?”

Natalie’s face flashed in my head. I thought of her hurt and lying on the ground.

I climbed over the barricade and started to lose it, crying and frantically dialing numbers. Nothing. No cell service. I started walking and dialing as fast as I could.

I was thinking the absolute worst, while also trying to convince myself that my children were safe. I was shaking and my body began to go into shock. I dug into a trash can to grab aluminum to cover me.

I walked and walked toward the park. Every street was filled with police cars and ambulances. I thought of Natalie and Camden’s father and how panicked he must be. I felt a heartache like no other. Tears streamed down my face. The pain was piercing.

Finally, two hours later, my sister answered “we are in the park we are all safe.” I sobbed out loud, “Thank you, God!”

I couldn’t get to them. Every street was blocked. Finally I found a path to my family and I ran.

They were near the duck pond, a happy place we had visited many times before.

Natalie was standing on the bridge when she saw me. She began to run and I grabbed her in my arms. We sobbed and hugged. My baby girl was safe. I never wanted to let go.

Natalie is coming back on April 21st for Episode 3 of “Watching my mom finish the Boston Marathon.” She told me she is nervous but that there is no way she would miss it.

I am blessed. I am grateful. And I am meeting my daughter at the finish!

— Amanda Burgess

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