From Our Listeners

Letters: Marathon Spectators, Governing During Crisis

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NPR's Jennifer Ludden reads from listener comments on previous show topics, including the effects spectators have on marathon runners, the ways political leaders govern during crises and how ethnicity and identity intersect.


It's Tuesday, and time to read from your comments. In the aftermath of the bombing in Boston, we pay tribute to marathon spectators by asking when one has changed your running experience. Bruce Durbin of Vienna, Florida wrote: Columbus, 1982. I blew up at 20 miles, at two hours, walked for a while, and finished much more slowly. As I neared the finish, I realized I could break 2:50 and qualify for Boston. The crowd knew, and was screaming for me. Final time: 2:49:59. And this from a listener who didn't give their name: In my hometown of Charlottesville, I ran two 10-milers, which are regionally popular. And one time there was a church gospel church in robes outside their chapel in downtown singing and clapping keep on running, keep on running with tambourines. What a great message to hear.

So much happened last week. After the attacks at the Boston Marathon, the explosion in West, Texas and suspicious packages at the Capitol, we also asked you for a memorable moment when a political leader made a difference in a crisis. Beth Fishback in San Carlos, California wrote this: I was 16 or 17 when San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk were gunned down at city hall. Diane Feinstein, who was head of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was thrust into the public view, had to make a statement confirming the grim details of the day's events. In fact, she was the one who found the mayor dead in his office. I will never forget the reaction of the crowd when now-Senator Feinstein said these men had been slain. It was one of the first times I watched a woman in a position of power try to inform and comfort - very impressive.

And Debbie in Johnson City, Tennessee wrote of her moment when Mayor Giuliani went on "Saturday Night Live" after 9/11 and gave us permission to laugh again.

We introduced NPR's new Code Switch team last week, as well, and asked when ethnicity became an important part of your identity. Janet Galin(ph) wrote about walking through the Kasbah in Tangiers as a teenager. A young boy was standing on a corner, marking each of us as we passed in accented English: American, American, American, he was saying. Then I walked by -Jewish, he said, in the same cadence without missing a beat. I never felt so unmasked as I did at that moment. I'd always thought of myself as an American first, and as an ethnicity second - silly me.

Kevin Ward said never knowing his father's identity made a big difference: I remember an exchange student from South Africa, when there was still apartheid, telling me that I would be considered colored if I visited her in South Africa, but I could pass if I stuck with her. It was a strange, jarring moment, since I'd only ever thought of myself as white. It set up a feeling of longing to know who I was.

If you have a correction, comment or question for us, the best way to reach us is by email. Our address is Please let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name. And if you're on Twitter, you can follow us there @TOTN.

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