A man was talking to a hometown radio station on his cell phone Monday when a fellow Boston Marathoner approached him during the interview and saw the shiny medal around his neck.
It was only a few hours since two bombs blasted near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, eventually killing three and wounding almost 200 others. Several members of the health club industry were affected by the blasts, including a Charlotte Athletic Club personal trainer whose shock in the aftermath was captured on the cover of the New York Post.
Greg Hall was one of the lucky ones. He had finished the race just 35 minutes before the bombings. He did not hear the blasts while getting his bag and changing clothes four or five blocks away.
Hall, from Kansas City, MO, writes a regular sports column on his blog and is a frequent tweeter. Prior to the Boston Marathon, he organized a sendoff for Kansas City-area runners who also were participating in the marathon. He publicized the event on Twitter and wrote about it on his blog.
After the blasts that he did not hear, Hall walked closer to the commotion. He had heard it might have been a bomb, but he was in denial. His fears, however, were soon realized.
With a journalist's instinct, Hall got to within half a block of the crime scene and used Twitter to pass along information. Sometime later, he heard another explosion.
"ANOTHER bomb just went off right by where I'm standing," Hall tweeted. "People running, screaming, crying. INSANE!"
The boom Hall heard turned out to be a controlled explosion by the police, friends from back home tweeted Hall. Back in Boston, police ushered people out of the area. Mothers grabbed their children.
"That scene will live with me for quite a while," Hall said Tuesday upon returning home after a sleepless night. "What I saw in just the amount of rescue and fire first-responders was just overwhelming. It's just amazing how quickly people move."
Standing on a park bench safely out of harm's way, Hall turned away from his live radio interview and acknowledged the man, who could not speak English. He realized the man was one of many marathoners who did not get to finish the race. He had to have been from some far-away country, Hall thought. When would he ever return to Boston? He would cherish this medal.
"Take it," Hall said, and he took the medal from around his neck and offered it to his compadre. "Take my medal. It's yours." The man graciously declined and walked away.
And that was that. Volumes of stories of kindness and giving have filled Boston the past 24 to 48 hours. People in luxurious homes offering stranded marathoners a place to shower, to stay. People giving blood. People giving comfort.
It's that kind of spirit that will drive Hall, a three-time Boston Marathoner finisher, back to Boston next year.
"I feel like I kind of owe it to them," Hall said. "Yeah, I'm going back. I'm not letting the cowards win."