On April 15, 2013, a 13-year-old girl attended the Boston Marathon with her family to cheer on her father as he crossed the finish line.
“Like the typical middle schooler, I didn’t prepare well for the cold weather when we left. I didn’t bring a jacket, gloves or anything like that,” said Trilby Brown, a Virginia Tech junior. “I was only wearing a long sleeve T-shirt.”
Brown and her family had attended the Boston Marathon ever since she was five years old. As she grew older, her sisters were not always able to make it. For the 2013 marathon, the Browns arrived on Thursday and planned to leave on Tuesday, following the same schedule as previous years.
“In 2013, that was actually the first year in a few years that my entire family went to the marathon,” Brown said. “It was kind of an abnormal year to begin with.”
In the past, the Browns would wait half a mile from the finish line to see their father finish the race. Since the whole family was in attendance this year, they thought it would be nice to watch him cross the finish line.
According to the Weather Underground, the temperature on the day of the Boston Marathon was below 50 degrees with winds between 15 and 18 mph.
“I was freezing cold and complaining, like a typical 13-year-old girl, while we were waiting for my dad to finish the race,” Brown said.
Brown’s mother listened to her complaints. She took Brown and her two sisters into a Chinese restaurant down the street from the finish line. The miso soup Brown ordered helped warm her up.
“At about the exact same time we had ordered, our phones started ringing, alerting us that my dad had just crossed the finish line,” Brown said. “This was about 15 minutes before we were expecting him to finish.”
Brown’s middle sister decided to leave the Chinese restaurant to meet her dad, stopping to get coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts on the way. The Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant was three stores away from the bombing.
“At first, I didn’t realize it was a bomb; I thought it was fireworks for the race,” Brown said. “When the second one went off and I felt it, I knew this wasn’t right.”
The bomb exploded three stores away from the Chinese restaurant, shattering the glass doors and windows.
“People are running around everywhere,” Brown said. “I am freaking out because I don’t know where my sister is.”
Chaos began to ensue. Police officers attempted to direct people to safety while the people of Boston were frantically shouting and running in disarray.
“It took a little to actually realize it was a bombing because it just did not seem like a place where that would happen,” said Tami Brown, Trilby’s mother. “My first thought was about finding our daughter who had left the building.”
Brown’s middle sister had to decide on where to go and what would be the safest course of action to take.
“I was strategizing which direction I should run to get safe. When I looked up and saw that I was close to the restaurant, I made the call that I would run toward the bomb in order to get reunited with family,” said Xandra Brown Taylor, Brown’s middle sister. “Knowing the risk that I might be walking into another bomb, but I would be better with them if I made it there than be apart from them.”
Brown, her mother and two sisters reunited in the restaurant. Tami Brown decided to take her daughters out the back of the restaurant into an alleyway. She believed it was less likely for a bomb to go off there because it was less populated.
“Then, as we moved out of the restaurant and back to our hotel, seeing the carnage was very upsetting, but watching the first responders was something I will never forget,” Brown’s mother said. “It was like a choreographed dance; they were so in sync with one another.”
Brown, her mother and two sisters returned to the hotel safely, where they saw Brown’s father relaxing in the lobby.
“We walk into the hotel, and there’s my dad sitting in a chair, having just ran a marathon. There was nothing wrong, except that he had just ran a marathon,” Brown said. “He had no idea what just happened, happened.”
The Brown family was together and unharmed after experiencing a double bombing within a 100-yard radius of where they were.
According to an article from CNN, three people lost their lives, and over 264 people sustained injuries.
For Brown’s oldest sister, Heather Brown Lester, this was not the first time experiencing an act of terror.
On April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech endured a spate of shootings that left 32 people dead. The massacre occurred in Norris Hall. The victims accounted for 27 students and five faculty members. Lester was a freshman at the time of this disaster.
“The difference between these awful events is at Virginia Tech, it did not happen directly near me, but it was happening right where I lived. After it was over, there was an eerie feeling on campus that was hard to ignore,” Lester said. “I fortunately already had my off-campus housing for the following year. I ended up moving out of my dorm early and lived there while I finished up the semester. At the Boston Marathon, once I was back at the hotel, I felt safe. We flew out the next day, so I really wasn't around the same sadness and fear as being in the same place as where it happened.”
Lester graduated from Virginia Tech in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in economics. Her younger sisters, Taylor and Brown, have followed in her footsteps. Taylor graduated in 2013 with undergraduate degrees in hospitality and tourism management and marketing. She then completed her master’s in business administration at Virginia Tech. Brown plans to graduate in 2021 with degrees in hospitality and tourism management and marketing.
Brown and her sisters attended Virginia Tech after a life-changing traumatic event; only then to weather the horrors accompanying the 2013 Boston Marathon.
“The motives of these terrorists are to invoke terror and attempt to disrupt our way of life. If I were to choose not to participate in the race due to the terrorist’s actions, they would win,” said Jerry Brown, Trilby’s father. “We would lose.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, the city of Boston has made several changes and improvements to prevent terrorist attacks by analyzing their attack and many others.
Virginia Tech has also improved safety measures since the April 16 shooting.
“Virginia Tech strives to provide a safe environment after what happened in 2007,” Brown said.
According to WSLS, Virginia Tech now ranks among the top 10 safest college campuses in the country.
“Going through that experience with Boston gives me a deep-rooted connection to the city and to the people of that area because of what happened. Every year I go back, it helps mend that wound a little bit more,” Brown said. “Boston is one of those cities that when they take a punch, they are going to take an even bigger punch back.”
Brown’s memories of that day stay with her as she finishes her time at Virginia Tech. She dreams of using her dual degree to land a job with Disney, a top leader in the hospitality and tourism management industry.