Northeastern students pray after marathon bombing

BOSTON -- When Amanda DeCarlo realized that two bombs had exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, April 15, she located a friend and joined her in prayer before searching for runners she knew.

"We basically all came away from that area, we said a couple of Hail Marys for each of them, and we started trying to figure out how we could go about finding where they were," she said.

DeCarlo, a senior at Northeastern University and treasurer of the Catholic Student Association, found those marathoners, safe and sound. As a group, her friends went back to her apartment and prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. She said the fear and confusion surrounding that day was permeated by prayer and she witnessed many acts of kindness. She saw people offering their residences to others and many sharing their cell phones so that everyone could check in with loved ones.

"It was just kind of amazing to me that while everyone around us is going through such a hard time, there's so much love that's going along with it," she said. "There was definitely this sense of the good outweighing the evil."

Brother Sam Gunn, BH, campus minister at Northeastern, said the Catholic Center ministers were on hand to pray with students April 16, the day after the bombing. The daily Mass at the center, dedicated to those affected, had three times as many worshippers as usual. At 4 p.m., the university held an interfaith prayer vigil. Brother Sam and other religious leaders led the group in prayer.

He prayed for those who died and their families. He offered thanksgiving for the heroic efforts of emergency personnel and ordinary citizens who saved lives.

"We are strengthened by the courage we witnessed," he said. "We thank you God for these reassuring signs of humanity in the midst of an inhuman act of violence."

He prayed for safety, remarking that life is a "unique and unrepeatable blessing." A member of the Brotherhood of Hope, he also prayed for hope -- "a fragile flame in this violent world."

School officials have identified a handful of students injured in the bombings but do not yet know if more members of the campus community have been hospitalized.

Other students, physically unharmed, are dealing with emotional wounds. Some were at the finish line and witnessed the grisly scene. Three people were killed and over 170 injured, many losing limbs in the blast.

Numerous students did not witness the direct aftermath of the bombings, but experienced the confusion and fear that accompanied the event. Many spent hours waiting to hear about the fate of their friends. Still others had difficulty notifying their loved ones about their own safety.

John Daniel, an intern at the Northeastern University Catholic Center, ran the marathon on Patriots Day. He was nearing the end of the race, experiencing the high of passing Boston College and on track to set a personal best as the bombs went off.

"We had just gotten off mile 21 at Boston College, and it was very exciting -- high energy. Then, right when we passed there and were going through Brookline, the mood kind of sombered out a bit. The runners didn't really know what was going on," he said.

Listening to the radio on headphones, Daniel heard something about two explosions and turned the channel because he thought he was listening to a world news report. The next station made the same report, but Daniel ran another mile before anyone tried to stop the runners.

At first, he heard that the marathon had been re-routed and that runners would still be finishing, just in a new location. It was not until he reached the one mile to go marker that everyone was brought to a halt.

He said he was in shock and confused about why they were not allowed to finish. At the time, he did not understand the severity of what had happened. He said that after months of training and the high of almost making it to the finish, he was left with an "empty feeling."

Daniel also expressed gratitude to God that he was not at Copley during the explosions. He had been training hard for a month and had been disappointed that he could not train as hard as he would have liked. Had he not been nursing a leg injury, his marathon time may have been better and he could have been in Copley during the blast.

"I am now very thankful to God that I was hurt," he said.