Five Minutes Ahead of Tragedy

Alumni safe after running Boston Marathon in their classmate’s memory

By Rita Buettner  |  Photos courtesy of Brian De Sena, '11

Loyola magazine interviewed Brian De Sena, ’11, before he and Dan Sweeney, ’11, set out to run the Boston Marathon in memory of their classmate, Evan Girardi. De Sena spoke with the magazine again today to speak about their experience in light of the tragic events after their run.

Brian De Sena, '11, and Dan Sweeney, '11, before the Boston Marathon

Brian De Sena, '11, and Dan Sweeney, '11, before the Boston Marathon

As Brian De Sena, ’11, started his second Boston Marathon, his mind was on his Loyola classmate, Evan Girardi. De Sena and Dan Sweeney, ’11, were running the race in Girardi’s memory.

“Danny and I started together, but he injured his knee a few weeks ago, so I broke off after the first mile,” De Sena said. “I ran the race by myself, and the whole time I was thinking of him.”

When De Sena hit a wall at mile 23, he asked Girardi to help him finish. And, looking back on the tragedy that hit the marathon, De Sena feels sure someone was looking out for him and his family and friends that day.

After seeing Steve Angelovich, ’11, and a few other friends at mile 26, De Sena crossed the finish line in under four hours—meeting his goal.

“You’re so happy to get there, but you’re too drained to be happy,” he said. Sweeney’s knee injury (a torn posterior cruciate ligament) forced him to stop at mile 16, where he caught a ride back to Girardi’s family’s home in Hopkinton, Mass., where he and De Sena were staying.

Beautiful Day Turns Terrifying

Brian De Sena during the marathon

Brian De Sena during the marathon

De Sena picked up his medal and met up with his parents and his sister, Catherine, a first-year student at Loyola, about one block from the finish. Just five minutes after he finished the marathon, he heard the first explosion.

“That’s weird,” he thought. He wondered whether it was a car accident.

“Then I heard the next one 10 seconds later and thought it was really strange,” he said, “but I still couldn’t piece together what was going on.”

He and his parents called his older brother, Jason, who had been standing near the finish line, in between the two explosions. “He said, a bomb went off, I’m helping people, and I’ll be there soon,” De Sena recalled. “We’re like, ‘That’s great you’re helping people, but get out of there.’”

Terrified that another bomb would go off, De Sena, his sister, and parents stood in the middle of an intersection, trying to figure out how to stay safe.

Helping the Wounded

Meanwhile, his brother Jason and a few friends—their ears still ringing so loudly they thought they were bleeding—were helping a confused, scared woman with a gash on her leg. One of them tied his jacket around her leg to stop the blood and they tried to calm her down.

It was only later when they found other friends at another bar that someone said to Jason, “Are you OK? You have blood on your hand.” It wasn’t his, but blood from the woman he had helped.

As De Sena and his parents and sister tried to catch a cab, they talked to the people around them.

“You could see as people started to come over from the finish line, there was panicking. A girl came up to me and she said, ‘Excuse me, do you know what’s going on?’ I said, ‘A bomb just went off.’”

She just walked away, looking confused.

Bombarded with text messages from worried friends and family, De Sena was able to catch a cab with his parents and his sister to get away from the area. They knew Jason was far enough from the scene that he would be able to connect with them later, and De Sena was drained from his 26.2-mile run.

It wasn’t until later that the enormity of what had happened sank in.

Coming Back Strong

Just two days after the event, though, De Sena wasn’t ruling out his next marathon—or his next run in the Boston Marathon.

“This definitely won’t deter me from doing it,” he said. “That’s the thing about the Boston spirit. It’s such a great city. People are going to come back strong from this. There are going to be even more people running next year. They’re so resilient.”

Brian De Sena's marathon bib

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