The caring faces of American Red Cross volunteers greeted runners as they arrived at the multi-service center which was coordinated by Boston Office of Emergency Management and supported by many voluntary organizations.
Rows of yellow bags, which were abandoned when runners were diverted from the race route were lined up waiting to be claimed. Runners not only received their bags, but also their medals and a big congratulations for their accomplishment. Nearly 500 bags were picked up over the course of the day.
Red Cross mental health volunteers circulated among the runners offering a listening ear if people wanted to discuss their experience. They provided hugs, smiles and stuffed toys to children who came in with their parents.
Additionally, Red Cross volunteers helped coordinate unexpected needs like assisting with rescheduling flights. They helped runners register themselves on Safe and Well and worked with international consulates locate foreign nationals who had not checked in yet with their families. Volunteers also handed out food and snacks.
The highlight of the day came when a frantic woman called looking for her son and volunteers were able to confirm he was safe and doing fine.
One well loved volunteer, Bailey the dog and his handler Jack Foley from DogBONES, an animal therapy group, offered snuggles to all and when one runner who was staring fondly at Bailey mentioned her legs were too sore from the race to bend down, Jack had Bailey sit up so she could reach him.
Even though many runners were still stunned from yesterday’s events, they smiled when volunteers offered to take their photos as their medal was placed around their neck, recognizing that in the midst of this tragic event they had accomplished something special.