Jacob Bera, an art teacher at Eagle River High School outside Anchorage, Alaska, read an article a few months ago by the parents of Daniel Barden, noting how their son's slaying at Sandy Hook Elementary School robbed the speedy 7-year-old of a lifetime's worth of opportunities, including, perhaps, a chance to run the Boston Marathon.
So Bera laced up Monday and ran it for him.
"Learning about Daniel reminded me of the power of simple acts of kindness, and that's something I model for my students each and every day," Bera wrote in a letter posted on a tribute Facebook page set up by the Bardens, http://www.facebook.com/WhatWouldDanielDo. "I've kept Daniel's spirit in my own heart, and when I run my first Boston Marathon tomorrow I'll share that experience in honor of his memory."
Bera's letter has been shared 2,000 times on Facebook and has generated 500 comments — many concerned for Bera's welfare after twin explosions rocked the venerable road race, injuring more than 100 and killing at least three.
Bera is safe; he completed the race in 3 hours, 8 minutes and 10 seconds, crossing the finish line around 1:15 p.m. — about 90 minutes before the blasts.
"I usually like to hang around and watch the other competitors finish," Bera, 35, wrote in an email to The Courant, "but since I was in Boston alone and I wasn't feeling 100% at the end I figured it was best to head to the hotel and get some rest."
So after recovering for 30 to 45 minutes, he boarded the T and headed for the Fairmont Battery Wharf hotel. He thinks the blasts might have occurred while he was in transit, but after emerging a few blocks from the hotel, he walked the rest of the way to his room and fell asleep, unaware of the chaos a mile away.
"There weren't too many people out on the street, but that didn't seem odd to me since I figured most were watching the race," Bera wrote. "An hour or so later, I woke up to my brother calling me checking to see if I was OK."
Bera said it was surreal and tragic to be in Boston during the bombings. But he said the attack also brought out many runners' instinct for caring and community.
"During the race, I witness so many strangers helping and encouraging one another. And as we saw afterwards, so many people stepped up to help in many different ways when people needed it the most," Bera wrote.
"I hope that was the experience in Newtown. It sounds like it was," he wrote. "I'm sure that community will need that extra support for a very long time as they begin to heal, and I was hoping to add to my past contributions by passing along my specific thoughts and support to the Bardens. I look forward to more ways I can help."