Tragedy at the Boston Marathon on Monday was made crueler by the fact that the race was intended to be a symbol of hope, resilience, and strength for the victims and families of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The final mile of the marathon, cut short by twin bombings at the finish line that killed two and injured scores more, was dedicated to the victims of Newtown.
Nine Newtown residents participated in the marathon as part of Team Newtown Strong. They were running in honor of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to the Connecticut Post. All members of the team apparently finished the race before the explosions and were unharmed.
The marathon’s connection to Newtown extended from the race into the bleachers.
“Newtown cannot handle anymore of this,” Newtown resident Lisa Abrams, whose husband is a member of Team Newtown Strong, told the Post. “We don’t need any more stress, no more heartache.”
The number 26—representing the number of victims at Sandy Hook and the rounded number of miles in the race—permeated the marathon from start to finish. Joanne Flaminio, president of the Boston Athletic Association, which sponsors the marathon, said before the race that there was a “special significance” to the fact that the race is 26 miles and 26 were killed in Newtown.
Banners honoring the victims of Newtown hung at the end of the 26th mile, close to where the families of the victims were seated and the bombs were detonated.
The first 20 miles of the marathon were dedicated to the first-graders who were killed at Sandy Hook, and the final six were dedicated to the six educators who were murdered.
Dr. Laura Nowacki, a pediatrician in Newtown who has served as a spokeswoman for the Newtown Strong Fund, dedicated Mile 12 of the marathon to Grace McDonnell, one of the first-graders killed in the December 14 attack. Nowacki’s daughter, a fourth-grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School, survived, but several of her patients were killed.
"We're going to sprint like we ran that day to get to our children," Nowacki told New England Cable News before the race, "and we're going to fly like those little kids flew to get out of that horror and to get to the firehouse, and we're just going to let it all out and run for the freedom and that full on love of life that those kids had."
Participants and spectators were asked to pay their respects with a moment of silence for the victims at Sandy Hook, followed by 26 seconds of silence at the starting line of each wave of the race.
And banners honoring the victims of Newtown hung at the end of the 26th mile, close to where the families of the victims were seated and the bombs were detonated.
“I’m very sad about the world,” Abrams told NBC News on Monday evening.
“You can’t go to a movie, you can’t go to school, you can’t go anywhere.”