Michael Frederick of Lady's Island not only survived the Boston Marathon last week, he thrived in it.
But he could not celebrate. He was swept into a strange American moment of both triumph and tragedy.
Frederick finished the race about 20 minutes before two bombs went off near the finish line, killing three people and injuring 264. He was about 50 yards away from the first explosion.
"You just want to celebrate and there is a big party that night and there is all this stuff that is going to happen and you just want to rejoice and then this happens, and nobody wants to do anything," he said back home in his architectural office on Meridian Road.
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He and his wife, Jane, describe a great scene of Americana that New Englanders call Patriot's Day: In one town along the route, a bluegrass band played for hours; in another, it was bongo drummers. In Wellesley, college girls held up signs saying, "Kiss me if you're a doctor."
Jane and her mother, Ann Young, watched the race in Wellesley. After seeing Michael wave as he ran by, they got a ride back to the city with a Canadian couple whose daughter was in the race.
"We saw an emergency vehicle go by," Jane said. "Then we saw five, then we saw 10, then all hell broke loose."
Jane typed #BostonMarathon into Twitter to discover that it was bombings.
"I knew Michael had finished," she said, "but I did not know where he was."
Since Jane and her mother had a different destination from the Canadians, they got out of the car to walk. Jane started getting text messages: "Are you OK?" Within a block, one came from Michael saying he was OK.
Within two blocks, men in riot gear had taken up position at every intersection.
"It was very surreal, this whole situation," she said.
Michael had walked back toward the finish line hoping to get a printout of his time when the first explosion sent up a cloud of smoke. He couldn't see the carnage because so many people were between him and the explosion. People thought it was part of the festivities. Then he saw victims being pushed by in wheelchairs. Then came another explosion. He headed for the hotel.
While walking through Boston Commons, Jane thought to post on Facebook that they were OK.
They were humbled by the number of people checking on them.
And they fell in love with Boston. They felt personal relief when sanity returned to the city following an arrest Friday night that ended four days of terror.
Michael didn't qualify for the Boston Marathon in the traditional way. He was invited to join one of the charitable fundraising teams allowed to enter each year. He ran for the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. He is a 50-year survivor of type 1 diabetes, eager to help find a cure for a disease that cost him sight in one eye. He raised more than $10,000, and the Joslin team exceeded its goal by raising $118,000.
Michael, 54, is a cycler and rower but had never run a marathon. He didn't know if he would even finish the 26.2-mile race, but he did it in 3:42:29 -- close to the 3:40 time he would need to qualify for the race.
Now he is determined to return, earning his way into the Boston Marathon this time. And this time, celebrating triumph over tragedy.
Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.