Bryant Sperry
Kim Cowart at mile 26 of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Monday was the sixth anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings.

For the first year in recent memory, I didn’t even realize the significance of Monday until I turned on the news. But while that day isn’t on the forefront of my thoughts anymore, it only takes one image, one sound, one social media post and I’m right back on Boylston Street.

When I look back at my pictures of that day it hits me how much the world has changed, and how much I’ve changed along with it. Some of the changes aren’t great. I don’t think I’ll ever have a moment when I don’t panic at the sound of sirens. I get anxious when I board a train when we travel. I always take a deep breath when I’m in the middle of a big crowd. And you couldn’t pay me to see a movie about that Marathon Monday.

But with time comes perspective and I can also see the positive changes that day has brought to my life.

First, I don’t live for tomorrow. No more “One day…” or “Eventually…” or “I hope…” I am still relatively young and the world is big. I’m of the lot that doesn’t care so much about material things, but experiences and loved ones to share them with. I’m not recklessly accumulating debt, but I put my dollars toward things that matter most. That dream of seeing U2 in Ireland — yep, we did it.

Second, my priorities are clear. The 24 hours after the explosions were surreal. Everywhere in Boston was quiet. The streets. The hotel lobby. The airport. We were pulled aside and questioned by the FBI. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. Once we landed in Salt Lake and began to ride the escalator down to baggage claim, I could see the little shoes of my two daughters waiting for us. That’s when the reality of the experience hit. I have never been so joyful to see those girls. I have never held them tighter. April 15 may have been the worst day of my life, but April 16 was by far one of the best. There is not a race, a trip, a house, a job that matters more than holding those two girls.

Third, I know we are made of tough stuff. We underestimate what we can handle when called upon. We have inside us the capability to climb mountains. No one asks for tragedy, but we all experience it in some form. And when we do, we can rise to meet the challenge. Strength comes from struggle. We will only know how strong we are when tested.

Fourth, I live my life with more authenticity. It’s not as if I was a poseur. But I cared what people think. People’s opinions mattered. I cared about meeting others’ expectations and making sure I fit myself into other people’s molds. I still care what others think of me, but not enough to change who I am. I pay more attention to what I want from myself and have found more joy in the process. I’m no longer afraid to speak up for myself and blaze my own trails when needed.

2 comments on this story

Fifth, I appreciate life’s moments. It sounds cliche, but Boston 2013 was a wake-up call. I’m a planner, a plotter. I map things out. I’m always looking three steps ahead. But when I’m looking so far into the distance, I often fail to take in the current view. I once ran a half marathon with my husband. At the finish line he marveled at the gorgeous waterfalls along the route. I had no idea what he was talking about. I saw not a single one. Focus is good. Having a plan will always be my way. But I want to see the waterfalls while I’m there.

Time may heal wounds, but there’s always a scar. I no longer have the need to cover it up. I don’t stare at it all day, either. It’s not the whole of me, but it will always be a part of me. Scars are an outward reminder of my inner change. May we all remember to find our own Boston Strong.