Clemson receivers coach Jeff Scott sat in a meeting Monday afternoon, doing post-spring evaluations when player development assistant Dustin Fry came into the room and showed him the startling news.
Explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Scott raced out of the room and started dialing his phone, then sending texts. His brother, John, works as a surgical resident at a hospital in Boston. His sister-in-law, Kirstin, ran in the race.
No response from Kirstin.
Text back from John. He was in the emergency room at Faulkner Hospital, working on victims of the attack. For a brief time, John Scott had no idea whether his wife was safe. The last time he had heard from her, she told him she had completed her race and was heading back to the finish line to greet friends.
Kirstin was closing in on Boylston Street, site of the finish line, when she heard the first explosion. She wrote in an email to family and friends:
"The force of the blasts was confusing, disorienting, and everyone was running as smoke started to fill the street. The Lenox and Boston Public Library blocked my full view of Boylston St. - I could see some runners directly ahead but it was instantaneously a rushing crowd...all I could process was that something terrible had happened to the right and then left of where I was based on the sound/impact of the explosions.
"My immediate priority was to search for and connect with a friend who was standing near the finish line; I was beyond relieved to find them safe and remain eternally grateful for their solidarity today. By that point - we were one street parallel to the physical injuries and thus not nearby the blast sites. We did our best, however, to offer hugs, our phones and some sort of sensible plan to people who were in shock, crying, and fearful of the 3rd + explosions that, thankfully, never came. I wish I could have done more to help..."
All this, unbeknownst to John Scott.
In an email to his brother, John wrote:
"I was doing an emergency appendectomy. In the middle of the case, I was paged by the Emergency Department to tell me a bomb went off at the marathon finish line and that we were expecting to take on a lot of injured patients. My heart sank to my gut. I wanted to know that Kir was okay. But I had a patient on the table in front of me who needed me to focus on THEM so that they’d make it through the operation safely. Thankfully Kir texted me about 15 minutes later and the nurse read it aloud. It was the longest 15 minutes of my entire life."
John Scott ended up operating on several victims who came in with thigh and arm wounds, burns and severe fractures. He had to pull bits of clothing and ball bearings out of the wounds he treated. Scott had performed this type of surgery before -- he is in his third year of residency and was the senior most surgical resident on duty at the time of the explosion.
But never before did he have to mobilize in such a short period of time, to assess the emergency room and make split-second decisions on who was in most immediate need of surgery. Thankfully, every victim that was admitted into Faulkner Hospital was stabilized and surgeries completed before the day's end. And the Scotts -- along with their friends in the race -- were safe.
"It definitely hit close to home," Jeff Scott said in an interview with ESPN.com. "Everybody thinks that Saturdays in the fall are life and death but they're really not. Everybody's passionate about college football and their team, but when you have a brother that's in the medical field and you get to hear what he does on a daily basis, you realize what we're doing is just entertainment and what those doctors and emergency personnel are doing is truly life and death."
Indeed, what Kirstin and John came away with after Monday's horror was a deeper appreciation for the good in this world.
John wrote in his email to Jeff:
"People talk about scenes of chaos, but once the patients arrived to the ER, the nursing, medical, and surgical staff moved quickly and efficiently. This is why we train for years and years. To be ready, to be able, and to rely on each other to try and provide some comfort amid the suffering.
In the face of some nameless coward filled with hate and a desire to harm so many, what I’ll always remember the most is the way that everyone jumped into action, tireless and selflessly, doing anything and everything to help a stranger in need."
Kirstin vowed to run in Boston again, telling friends and family in her email.
"I know there is something stronger, better and actually lasting in this place," she wrote. "I witnessed it today in you - my friends - and many strangers, and it inspired me. One of the marathon mottos is "All In For Boston" - an ubiquitous phrase plastered along the 26.2 mile course; it reminds me to dig deep, especially for this race. Given today's tragedy, I am determined to think of creative ways to offer encouragement and real support to those who are shaken, and to make our response - including next year's Boston Marathon - a bold and forceful statement to all those who would wish others harm: their evil cannot conquer the Good. Let's do this."