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Thursday, April 18, 2013
My son, Andrew, had just delivered a persuasive speech to his public speaking class at Virginia Western Community College encouraging his classmates to become runners. Hours later, the news media reported the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Andrew was outraged.
Anyone who knows Andrew will agree that he is a unique combination of Forrest Gump and Rain Man. Andrew suffers from Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. That he is even able to prepare and deliver a speech to his classmates is an achievement in itself.
Andrew began running in middle school. He ran cross country, indoor and outdoor track all of his middle school and high school years. Running allowed him to be involved in a competitive sport, but it also gave him a group of friends that his disability would have otherwise prohibited.
Since his high school graduation, he has continued to run each day. He loves to compete in local races such as the Drumstick Dash, Jingle Bell 5K, Shamrock Hill 5K and 10k, AEP 10K, Commonwealth Games 5K, Fire Cracker 5K, and the Roanoke Half Marathon. Andrew is extremely familiar with spectators who cheer the runners throughout the course and at the finish line.
After the attack at the Boston Marathon on Monday, Andrew’s heart was broken. He became very agitated. He identified with the runners and the victims. He ranted about the sinister and cowardly act that targeted innocent people. In his mind, he visualized his own family waiting for him at any finish line. He was horrified. He realized that the Blue Ridge Marathon would be taking place this weekend in Roanoke and feared the possibility of a similar tragedy happening there.
Although Andrew had not planned to participate in this race previously, Monday night he asked me if he could register to run the Blue Ridge Marathon. For him it suddenly became not just an athletic event, but an opportunity to express his patriotism for his country.
“We cannot let terror win,” he told me. “They [terrorists] cannot take this away from us!”
Andrew expressed his desire to run the marathon in honor of those runners and spectators who were attacked in Boston. “I will run for them. Although I cannot take away what happened to them, I can think of them with every step as I run.”
So, with tears in my eyes, I registered Andrew for the Blue Ridge Marathon Wednesday morning, just barely making the registration cut-off.
On Saturday, while Andrew is running, I will be standing with the other spectators, holding my obnoxious cowbell and clanging away. I will join Andrew in letting freedom ring and support his attempt to celebrate freedom.
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