By Bob Reinert, USAG-Natick Public Affairs April 14, 2014
NATICK, Mass. (April 14, 2014) -- Shivaun Pacitto never doubted that she would be back to run again this year.
Pacitto was at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon when the bombs went off, but she fortunately was unhurt. The day after, before the bombing suspects were identified, she had vowed not to be intimidated by terrorists.
"The Boston Marathon means too much to our city or even to our nation," said Pacitto, a research psychologist with the Consumer Research Team, Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC. "It's an international event that we're so proud of, and I just don't want it to be tarnished like this. I will not let whoever did this win."
Mike Nixon was running between miles 23 and 24 as the bombs detonated. He didn't finish the course, but the program analyst for the Expeditionary Basing and Collective Protection Directorate at NSRDEC immediately began planning a return to Boston.
"My reaction to this kind of stuff is, I'm not going to let them control me via fear, you know?" Nixon said on the day following the attack. "You've got to stay strong. You've got to think of the good things. This could have been so much worse."
Pacitto and Nixon will be at the starting line in Hopkinton, Mass., April 21, for the 118th Boston Marathon.
"I never reconsidered my decision to run," said Pacitto, a veteran of five marathons, whose first Boston run was a year ago. "Running Boston in 2014 is not only about my personal quest to run again, it is about honoring the victims who were killed and injured in last year's tragedy."
Nixon struggled with his training over the long New England winter, but his wife pushed him to enter when the Boston Athletic Association invited those who didn't finish the 2013 race to run the 2014 edition.
"Initially, I reluctantly agreed," Nixon recalled. "Now, I am thankful she pushed me off of the fence, because this will be an amazing, historic marathon that will help further the healing for the running community, the city of Boston, New England, and most importantly, all those who were injured by last year's tragic events."
As they make their way through Framingham, Pacitto and Nixon could take water from Melvin Williams, an equipment specialist with NSRDEC's Shelter Technology, Engineering and Fabrication Directorate, who has been captain of a hydration station there since 1995.
"It was devastating," said Williams of last year's tragedy. "I planned on coming back. The people at the (Boston Athletic Association) were concerned and stayed in touch with each of us captains. I feel real safe this year."
One of those providing security in Framingham will be Wes Long, an equipment specialist at NSRDEC's Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate, who is an auxiliary police officer in that town. As he was a year ago, Long will be on duty during the marathon.
"This year's marathon will be very interesting, to say the least," Long said. "I feel extremely proud and lucky that I am able to be a part of it. It will be Boston's time to shine yet again and let the world know that we are 'Boston Strong,' will not tolerate terrorism, and that our people are resilient."
Despite last year's events, Long said he was proud of the first responders who rose to the occasion.
"Without question, the actions of these brave men and women saved countless lives," Long said. "Boston took immediate care of those affected, and with support from the public identified, found and pursued those responsible in a very short period of time. I am very proud of my fellow brothers and sisters in blue, and for anyone else involved who puts the interests of other's before themselves."
Long predicted that this year's Boston Marathon would be the best ever.
"It will be symbolic of how Bostonians and Americans, in general, deal with tragedy," Long said. "I take great pleasure in having the opportunity to be there, to serve others while mourning and remembering those who we have lost or that were victimized. It is truly patriotic and humbling."