Over 50 Brandeis University students and administrators gathered around the small pond centered between the school’s three religious chapels Tuesday evening for an emotional, multi-faith memorial filled with messages of love, hope, and support.
The messages of comfort were directed not only to the people wounded or killed by the attack, but also to a group of Brandeis students who served as emergency medical responders at the Boston Marathon’s finish line Monday.
“We all mourn for those who were killed, those injured, and those families who will heal,” said Brandeis President Fred Lawrence. “We are reminded all over again that sometimes we have very little or no control over the circumstances we will face.
“Take a moment, look around you, and draw strength,” Lawrence told the gathered crowd. “It’s impossible to go through these things alone, but it is very possible to go through them together.”
Lawrence said he was in Washington, D.C., with Boston University’s president, Bob Brown, when both received the same alert on their cellphones.
“We looked up from our phones at the same time, and we left the room at the same time,” Lawrence said. “I will tell you the first thing that occurred to me, after making sure the Brandeis family was accounted for, is ‘I’ve got to get back to campus.’”
Walter Cuenin, Brandeis’s Catholic chaplain, said he was still in disbelief at the amount of limb injuries following the explosions.
“This was a race, which people trained for years with their legs to run,” Cuenin said. “But they were instantly amputated.”
Although no members of the Brandeis community were injured by the blasts at Monday’s Boston Marathon finish line, the school still had reason to worry: a group of Brandeis students were working as emergency medical responders at the race’s finish line all day.
At first, the group mostly tended to the dehydrated runners who completed the race, giving them water and helping them rest after the 26.2-mile run.
But when the blasts shook Copley Square, many of the students – some mere amateurs who had never worked an emergency scene before – did not hesitate to help.
Yedidya Ben-Avie, 21, said he was about a block away when he heard and saw the explosions. He said he stood paralyzed before his body kicked into gear.
“It didn’t seem real,” he said. “Suddenly, 300 people were stampeding away, and I was just trying to make sure they didn’t run over each other. My tent was also full of dehydrated runners who were not too good on their feet, so I wanted to make sure they were OK.”
Ben-Avie said one girl from Brandeis who worked yesterday had little to no experience, but still swiftly ran into the chaos to help tend to the wounded.
“This girl never had experienced anything like this, but she was one of the first people to rush in,” he said. “She was shaking, but she still ran in.”
At the memorial, students sang songs of peace, and read poems that described humanity being found in darkness.
“The world is not nearly as neat and organized as we thought it is,” said Rabbi Elyse Winick, the university’s Jewish chaplain. “May the healing come quick for all of those who have been hurt, and comfort for the families, and for all of us.”
Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.