Two Marathon heroes

April 16, 2017

When the first bomb exploded near the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013, volunteers Alan Day and Lisa Contee looked at each other and said, “what was that?’’

When the second bomb exploded, they knew what to do. Day, a Lynn native, and Contee from Medford, spent the next several hours on that deadly chaotic day guiding runners off Boylston Street and away from a triage scene about to become a gigantic crime scene.

The people they helped, the runners they urged to move along, the terrified spectators who were visiting Boston for the first time on that day, were moved to safety by Day, Contee and hundreds of other Boston Marathon volunteers.

But April 15, 2013 did not end for Day and Contee on Boylston Street. By early evening, they had stripped off their Marathon windbreakers and donned American Red Cross coats.

With almost 10 years of Red Cross training and experience between them, Contee and Day spent the night of the bombings and the next morning parked on Boston Common. They fed and provided beverages to National Guard troops dispatched to Boston to form a perimeter around the investigation site spanning a large neighborhood.

For the next three days, the pair provided food and other assistance to law enforcement agents and police officers scouring Boston’s Back Bay streets, alleys — even rooftops — for bombing evidence. They set up a shelter for people who were evacuated from residences and provided aid to people converging on a “family reunification center” set up at Boston’s World Trade Center.

They were also on hand with other Red Cross workers later in the week during the intensive police effort that centered initially in Cambridge, and then Watertown.

The pair are unsung heroes among hundreds of heroes who stepped forward to do their part when Boston got added to the global terror target list. They stepped up because they wanted to help and because their Marathon and Red Cross training kicked them into action mode once disaster struck.

During the days after the bombing, Americans turned their attention to Boston to hear President Obama and Boston residents praise the city’s resiliency and courage. When law enforcement locked down Boston on the Friday following the bombing, residents did not hesitate to comply with requests to stay off the streets and stay alert.

Contee and Day didn’t have to be asked twice to volunteer to work the Marathon in 2014. On another sunny day like April 15, 2013, they answered runners’ questions and helped minimize confusion on Boylston Street even as runners and spectators celebrated all that is good about the Marathon.

The 2013 attack altered their Marathon Day job description. Prior to the bombings, they helped guide people and answer questions. Beginning in 2014, their responsibilities included moving  the Marathon crowd and checking security zones as part of a small army assigned to keep the marathon a safe event.

Day and Contee returned to the Marathon filled with pride shared by volunteers who took part in the event a year after the bombing and who participate in it today.