Returning as a Runner
Jaymi Cohen, A16, is running the Boston Marathon on April 17, but it’s not about striving for a personal best time. Four years ago, she stood with friends from the Tufts women’s lacrosse team near the finish line on Boylston Street. The first bomb went off, and then the second. She was thrown to the ground, her legs lacerated by flying shrapnel.
“My main motivation for running [this year] is what happened to me and a lot of people in 2013 with the bombings,” Cohen said.
The emotional toll of the bombing was far worse than the physical injuries, she said. “I was very traumatized, and it is interesting because I studied post-traumatic stress disorder as an undergraduate my first semester, so by the time this happened in my second semester, I knew the signs, symptoms and mechanisms of what this would look like. It is really emotionally scarring and taxing.”
Surviving that horrendous day, Cohen said, gave her strength and a new perspective on life, and for that, she credits the support of the entire Tufts community, along with her family, friends and teammates.
“I think the one thing that really helped was time and having a structured schedule: continuing to go to class and continuing to go to [lacrosse] practice every day, even though I did not practice really the rest of that season,” said Cohen, a four-year standout on the team. “Being able to talk with family and friends about it was the most helpful for me.”
The road to recovery was tough, though. “There are some days now when I do not even think about it, which is something that I never thought would happen,” she said. “It was taking over my thought process and mind.”
When she was younger, she was a volunteer coach for Special Olympics, and the marathon bombing made her want to help others even more, especially those with disabilities and mental health issues.
“So many special education kids cannot concentrate in school and find struggles in school, similar to what happened to me [after the bombing],” Cohen said. “I have an even stronger passion to help, because I was affected by this event that was out of my control, and I see how so many kids are affected by things out of their control as well.”
She’s pursuing a master’s degree in child advocacy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. After that? “I want to do a lot of things,” she said. “I want to change the world. I think I want to eventually go to law school, and I have considered working for the federal government or representing kids with disabilities and the disability community in litigation cases, making sure they have their rights and representing them in any way that they need.”
Cohen, who is running the race with her sister, Ilana, will represent the MGH Pediatric Cancer Team. She received care at MGH after the bombing, and has set a goal of raising $10,000 for the hospital’s pediatric hematology and oncology units.
“Running for something that is greater than me is something emotional, but I think it will be really rewarding,” she said. “On race day, I will be so emotional running, especially seeing friends and family along the route. My dad in the past has always stood right in front of the Forum restaurant, where I was standing and got injured, and I know he will be there at the finish line.”
Trevor Wenners, an intern for Tufts Athletics, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.