Justin Breton has played in the ECHL for the last three seasons, spending parts of the 2016-17 season with the Alaska Aces, Kalamazoo Wings, and Missouri Mavericks. Breton attended Bentley University, just outside Boston. As the 2017 Boston Marathon occurs today, he recalls the hectic days after the Boston Marathon Bombing occurred in 2013.
Professional hockey has given me the chance to play in some amazing places – Alaska, Michigan, and most recently, Kansas City, but Massachusetts will always be home.
I grew up in Fitchburg, MA, which is about an hour from Boston, not too far from Worcester. I played four years of college hockey for the Bentley University Falcons while I pursued my degree in economics and finance.
Marathon Monday is a Boston area tradition. There are a lot of colleges in both Boston and just outside the city, like Bentley, and a lot of students will usually skip class (if they have it at all) and go down to the Marathon – it’s just a big party down there.
I had my share of Marathon Monday experiences before, but on April 15, 2013, I didn’t go down to the Marathon site. It was the end of my junior year at Bentley and I actually had a group project to work on that day, so I stayed back at school. I knew a lot of my classmates had gone down to watch the race, but I was planning to go to the party on the green later that day after I got my schoolwork done.
I was in the Student Center with four of my classmates, working on our group project, when all of a sudden there was a ‘Breaking News’ alert on the TVs. It said there was a bombing at the Marathon and everyone just kind of starting freaking out. None of my close friends were down at the Marathon, but a couple of the kids I was working on the group project with knew people down there. Everyone got on their cell phones, called people they knew who were down at the Marathon, and we all phoned our parents to tell them we were safe.
It was a panic once it started to unfold. Everyone was trying to figure out what to do next and watched as the news alerts kept breaking on TV. I went back to my dorm room after that because classes were cancelled. Right when it first happened, the suspects were on the loose and the whole Boston area went on lockdown. They had pictures and videos on TV of the city - I’ve never seen a place so empty in my life- it was really eerie.
The day after the bombing they started to release news that the suspects could be in the Watertown or Waltham area – Waltham is where Bentley is located. So then our school, like many of the others in the area, went into lockdown. We were told to stay in our dorms and not to leave. I know it was really alarming for my parents too – my mom kept calling me to make sure I was in my dorm room. Waltham and Watertown were creepily quiet as well as the lockdown continued – it was weird to look outside my dorm- no students were walking around- nothing at all.
My roommates and I were glued to the TV as we were on lockdown –just waiting to see if there were any updates. Since a lot of students didn’t have food in their dorms, the University had to provide us meals. They had all these prepared lunches for us at a common area of the campus. They allowed one area of campus at a time go to grab our food and then we had to go right back to our dorm. They still didn’t know where the bombing suspects were at this point though, so they had a police helicopter over our campus monitoring any potential movement. It was wild.
I’ll never forget when they caught ‘the guy’ though. It was late on the night of Friday, April 19. They caught him in a boat in Watertown – it was only three or four miles from campus. It came on the news and I remember everyone just went outside to the common area on campus and it was a huge party. It wasn’t just students either, I remember a lot of cops were hanging out with us. They had been working nonstop. The amount of hours they put in was incredible.
It was neat to see the whole city come together. David Ortiz gave a speech at the Red Sox game the next day. It was cool to see someone that everyone looks up to, do something like that. I still get chills when I watch that speech.
After the bombing happened, you started hearing ‘Boston Strong’ with everything. What that really means to me was seeing everyone in our great city come together. The law enforcement members worked non-stop to catch the people who did this. To be able to shut down a city and surrounding areas, it took a lot of people working together. Even at the actual bombing, strangers were helping people they didn’t even know, putting their own lives at risk to help someone that was in need.
The events that happened will never leave my head, but I try to remember all the good of the city that came out of it. It goes to show you, you don’t know what’s going to happen so you just have to live life to the fullest.
I’m disappointed that I’m not still playing hockey in late April, but today, I’m looking forward to attending the Marathon, and joining in the celebration of all that’s good about the great city of Boston.