A Witness To The Bombing, A Nurse Returns To Boston As A Runner

Amelia Nelson (right) and her friend Kristy were volunteers at the 2013 Boston Marathon when the bombings happened.

hide captionAmelia Nelson (right) and her friend Kristy were volunteers at the 2013 Boston Marathon when the bombings happened.

Courtesy of Amelia Nelson

Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.

As a volunteer for the 2013 Boston Marathon, nurse Amelia Nelson thought should would be there to help runners as they came across the finish line.

"Our whole mission was to make sure that we kinda talked to people as they came across the finish line, ask them how their time was, make sure that they were oriented, make sure they knew what was going on and if they needed an intervention, to take them into the medical tent," Nelson says.

Nelson ended up having to treat far more grievous wounds that day. Three people died and at least 260 were injured in the bombing that occurred near the finish line. On Monday, Amelia Nelson will return to the race course, this time as a runner.

And while the day will be a celebration, she tells NPR's Rachel Martin it will be hard not to conjure up thoughts of that day one year ago when she and her friend Kristy showed up to their duty station.

Just after 2 p.m., Nelson says she remarked how uneventful the day had been, with few runners needing assistance.

"It had been perfect," she says.

And that's when the first bomb went off. She said for a moment the whole world froze, and everyone was looking toward the smoke. It was a moment she says seemed to last forever.

"And all of a sudden that moment is broken by screaming and total chaos," she says.

As an emergency provider, Nelson's training sprang into action and she ran toward the site of the first bomb. After helping people on the scene, she hopped in an ambulance and went to the hospital to help patients there as well.

The recovery from that day has been a gradual process, Nelson says.

"The first time I went back was a couple weeks after ... and it scared me to no end," she says.

The idea to run in the 2014 marathon came from her volunteer team leader, who had run the race before.

"She looked at us and she was like, 'I'm gonna get your girls' numbers and we're gonna run this, and that's how we're gonna make this better," she says.

Nelson says it was hard to mix her training for the Boston Marathon in between her 12-hour shifts as a nurse.

"I'm not one of those people that runs every day; I'm not someone who wakes up wanting to run every day," she says. "But it has certainly been an escape ... [to] be out in the city and appreciate what it is."

The determination to train for and run this year's race, Nelson says, comes from doing it as a community and as a team, as well as doing it for those who can't run.

"I feel like there are a whole lot of people who need this, including myself," she says.

She's anxious the race, but more anxious about the anniversary of the bombing on April 15. She felt a huge sense of relief once she got past that day, and the race is the next step.

"By Monday night, I will be thrilled that it is over," she says. "I feel like I can get back to some sense of normalcy, where I don't need to get up and run every morning."

And, she says, she'll keep running, though probably not distances as long as a marathon.

Keep up with Nelson, one of eight runners NPR followed through their training for the Boston Marathon.

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