Today is a very special day. It’s my friend, Jake’s, 22nd birthday. Jake was the kind of friend everyone should have- fun loving, spontaneous, energetic, loyal, and just a light to everyone who knew him or had the pleasure of meeting him.
Almost a year ago, as I was getting ready to graduate college and enter into the “real world” I was seriously contemplating taking a reporting job overseas as a freelancer for a prestigious international news agency. I would be headed to Afghanistan or Iraq to cover the War on Terror. I remember telling Jake about this one night a few weeks before graduation and the fun loving, energetic guy I knew became stern and steadfast in his reaction.
“Hannah, you can’t cover a war,” he told me. “If you do that, and get kidnapped, you know I will have no other option but to go over there and go all Rambo on the terrorists who took you and get you back.”
Jake was joking of course, but at the same time he wasn’t. He had sincere concern, as most of my friends and family had, and he objected to the whole idea of it. He didn’t want me to get hurt.
Time passed, I didn’t end up taking the position, and opted to be a reporter at a small local newspaper in Massachusetts instead. “Now that is MUCH safer,” Jake told me.
Then a few months into that job I landed an editor position at Runner’s World. I stayed in touch with friends from home and visited when I could. Then, on January 21, I received the most awful call of my life. My best friend Sydney called me and delivered the news. Jake died in an apartment fire.
I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. But months have passed and my friends and myself have all had time to accept our emotions and remember Jake. I remember wanting time to just stop. But it doesn’t.
Months went by and before I knew it we were coming up on Jake’s three-month anniversary, right around the time of the Boston Marathon when another unexpected, tragic event occurred. This time I was right at ground zero.
Friends and family franticly tried to reach me on my phone while I was in lockdown in the pressroom, a block away from the bombings. Sydney was able to reach me and she said, “Call me crazy for saying this, but I truly like to believe that Jake was up there watching over you today… He wouldn’t let anything happen to you then, and he didn’t today.”
“It gives me some kind of weird comfort.” It gave me comfort too.
While on lockdown, I was reminded again of time as the race clock continued to tick on hours after the explosions went off. Time passes even when we think it should stop. When something so horrible happens it’s impossible to believe that life continues to go on. But it does. And the comfort in that? We are able to move on.
This week the July issue of Runner’s World will arrive on newsstands. The issue is a tribute to everything that happened that day. As moving as this issue is, there are still countless stories left to be told. Everyone involved had a story and as the days have passed since then, we’ve been able to work through our emotions and find some comfort.
Today is Jake’s birthday. I find comfort in knowing that even though time has passed, he’s still here. He’s not gone and we won’t let him go. Just as what happened on April 15, 2013, what happened on January 21, 2013 will never leave my mind. But I don’t want it to. I want to remember it all. I don’t know if I’ve completely come to terms with what happened on those two days but only time will tell.
Happy birthday, my Rambo!