A member of the Arlington County Police Department is talking about his experience at the Boston Marathon on Monday, in light of the bombings that shook the event.
Cpl. Albert Kim has been with ACPD for about 13 years. He’s part of the department’s Tactical Training Unit, which holds the dual purpose of serving as a member of the SWAT team and providing training to other officers.
Kim doesn’t consider himself a marathon runner, he considers himself a triathlete. He was recently selected to compete in the International Triathlon Union championships in London this fall. Occasionally, he participates in marathons because they’re a “lower stress” form of training for him. After having been a spectator at the Boston Marathon last year, this year he decided to run it.
Kim had finished the race before the bombings and was already back in Cambridge, where he was staying, and just about to sit down for dinner at a restaurant. The person he was supposed to dine with is a nurse at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where nearly three dozen of the bombing victims were taken for treatment, and immediately was called back to the hospital. Kim said his instinct as a first responder was to do as his dinner partner had done, and head back into the city to assist. But he fought the urge and instead heeded the pleas of local law enforcement officials who asked residents and visitors alike to stay off the streets.
“Being a law enforcement officer, you want to help as much as you can. But at the same time, me not knowing the area, not being familiar with what needs to be done, I would be more of a hindrance,” said Kim. “The best thing I could do was stay out of everyone’s way, not go out, not see what’s going on at the scene, but follow directions. Everyone was being told to stay in place, to not leave their hotel rooms or congregate in groups.”
Like the others in the restaurant, Kim says he stared in disbelief at the scene playing out in front of him on the television.
“Everyone was glued to the television and the first thing I saw on the big screen was a replay of the explosion at the finish line. I was just watching the news and reading the updates. No one’s talking inside the place, everyone’s kind of staring at the television,” said Kim. “I was saddened by what I saw. It was a little bit of confusion too because I think initially everyone was speculating as to what had taken place. My first reaction is, who does something like that? What possess someone to do something like that on such a wonderful day with everyone watching? It’s very disheartening.”
Kim said he didn’t think about “what ifs” or the possibility that he could have been among the victims. He simply thought of the thousands of spectators who came from all around Massachusetts and across the world to show support for the runners, only to witness, and in some cases fall victim to, such a horrific attack.
“My heart went out to the spectators first. I knew that if you’re going to an attack an event like that, you’re going to attack where people congregate in the highest density, and that’s the spectators,” he said. “I just felt awful for the spectators there.”
Kim said it’s not just the images of the attack that will stick with him, but also the sounds that came after.
“I heard nothing but ambulances and police cruisers, with lights and sirens, for the rest of the day,” he said. “It was non-stop.”
In light of the bombings, Kim has decided to alter his triathlon schedule for next year in order to return to Boston for the marathon.
“Initially, before any of this happened, I treated Boston like any other marathon. It’s on the bucket list, I’ll do it once to experience it. But now that this thing has happened, I am fully committed to running this event next year,” said Kim. “I’m making it a priority on my race schedule, which I usually don’t do because I don’t consider myself a marathon runner. It’s something that I look forward to and will be doing next year.”