|John Devine, having a bite|
I'm so glad I went. I'm glad I took the long way home. Something told me to turn back and check out the exit near the finish line.
That's where a man asked me to take his picture. He wanted his daughters to see him after he finished the race.
I didn't even notice the crutches at first, much less the missing leg. I was busy with my own stuff, and it wasn't until I tried to frame him, that I said, Oh.
I'm not sure whether it was out loud.
John rode through all five boroughs in his wheelchair today. He completed the marathon in 2 hours and roughly 24 minutes, a pretty incredible time.
I spent the afternoon marveling at the 45,000 people who came out to tackle this course today. Pretty impressive for anyone. It's something I will never accomplish.
(I've got eight sibling and nearly all of them have done one of these, or at least a half. My niece, too. Incredible. I'm proud of them, too.)
|Wheelchair competitors, in front of The Dakota|
I have a special place in my heart for amputees, because I lived with them for about five months at Walter Reed. I was the only broke-back in the ortho PT room every day. I met wonderful people there, at all different stages in their recovery. Watching them deal with their loss so gracefully gave me the encouragement I needed to face mine.
I will never know what John went through after his right leg was torn off his body in Vietnam. I came in late to his story. He graciously filled in a few details. He was an airborne soldier in the Marine Corps. A mortar round took him down in Quang Nam Province. They called it Charlie Ridge.
Today, I got was a brief glimpse of the after picture. Forty-two years later, John is looking pretty good. It happened April 26, 1968. The date came instantly, without pause, when I asked how long it had been.
Since then, John has completed about fifteen marathons. Enough to lose count. He's done a few other things, too. Raised two daughters. He's quite proud of them.
|Near the finish. Second place?|
Maybe; I got confused.
"My wife's a couch potato," John said. "This like agony for her."
It was rough for him for awhile, too. He was up at 5:30, down to Staten Island, where the temperature hovered just above freezing. There was a lot of waiting, huddling to keep in body heat.
I met John about six and a half hours and 26.2 miles later. He had worked quite an appetite. He kept munching down his apple while I snapped his picture. He could hardly have been happier. Me too.
John was generous with me when I came back to get his name and his story, and another picture. He took his medal out. Amazing. He earned it. I was trying not to intrude to much, but I wish now, that I had asked for a closer look.
He leaned back against one of my favorite New York City buildings, The Dakota, and he smiled.
|John Devine. A medal earned.|