Five for Friday #133: Choose to help

Welcome to #133.

As most of you know, I like to write about something associated with the week’s number.  Any number that includes “33” reminds me of the 2013 Boston Marathon.  So that’s what I’m going to write about, even though I can’t quite formulate the thought I want to express.

When it comes to choices, I’ve never been prone to dwelling on “what ifs” or “whys.”  Rather, I’m a firm believer that we make the best choices that we can and, after making a choice, what’s important isn’t what might have been, but how we choose to deal with whatever resulted from the choice we made.

At the 2013 Boston Marathon I made a choice that often makes me ask myself “why?”

It was my first Boston. After years of failing, I’d finally slayed my white whale and qualified. Not knowing if I’d ever qualify again, I decided “money be damned!” and looked for a hotel as close to the finish line as possible.  What better way  to get the most out of the Boston Marathon experience?  I booked a room at the Westin Copley Place. It’s about a block from the finish line.

Boston is run on the 3rd Monday in April.  That year, I left Vermont on Saturday and planned to return on Tuesday.  Why Tuesday? I wanted to finish, watch others finish, then head to the post-race party for runners.  Again – the total marathon experience.

Anyhow, while I spared no expense for a hotel near the finish, paying Boston rates to park was a bridge too far. Instead, I drove to Lebanon, NH and took the Dartmouth Coach to South Station.  Not being too into packing or planning, I threw everything I might possibly need, and many things that there was no reasonable basis to conclude that I might need, into a gigantic duffel bag.  I thought it was funny that I was so whimsical.

Here’s where “33” comes in.  When it comes to numbers, I’m the opposite of Michael Scott: I’m not just a little stitious, I’m superstitious.  Two of my luckiest numbers are 33 and 17.  The former is for Larry Bird, the latter is for St. Patrick’s Day.  So, you can imagine how happy I was upon checking into the Westin and learning that I was in room 3317.

In the picture below, the Westin Copley Place is the tall building whose roof is between the labels “marathon finish line” and “medical tent location.”   That star-type thing to the left of the finish line marks the spot where the first bomb exploded.

Room 3317 is in the sliver/wedge that, from this angle, is on the top side of hotel.  It looks down on the medical tent.  The room does not have a view of the finish line – the Boston Public Library blocks it.

I ran well that year. My time was 3:20:06.  Boston starts later in the day than most races, so I didn’t cross the finish line until about 1:40 PM.

One of my least favorite parts about running Boston is how far you have to walk simply to exit the finish area. It’s preposterous.  In the image above, racers finish running left to right on Boylston Street, which is the street labeled “marathon finish line.” Then, they continue several blocks down Boylston until finally being allowed to exit the finish area at a spot that is well outside the right edge of the picture.

Once I finished, my plan was to go back to the finish line and watch others come in.  So, I trekked to the exit, walked a block south, then headed back towards my hotel

My plan changed when I got to the intersection of St. James, Dartmouth, and Huntington.  In the picture, it’s at the lower left edge of the green space that’s next to the words “medical tent location.”  Given how the medical tent is set up, nobody is allowed to cut thru the medical area to the finish area.  Frustrated at the logistics, and too lazy to make a 1-block detour, I trudged across the street to my hotel room.

(Aside, every marathon has a medical tent at the finish to deal with whatever ailments afflict runners during the race: cramps, dehydration, etc.  In other words, it wasn’t out of the ordinary for the medical tent to be there. And, at a race like Boston, with 30,000 runners, the medical tents take up a lot of space.)

Once in my room, I called my dad. By then, it was about 2:45. Up until about a week before the race, he’d hoped to attend.  Thank God he didn’t.

As we spoke, I heard bangs.  I assumed that they were fireworks.  I also heard sirens. I didn’t think much of them.  Who doesn’t hear sirens when visiting a big city?  Plus, there were hundreds of thousands of people downtown and, most likely, hundreds of runners suffering from dehydration, cramps, and other marathon-related injuries. Sirens weren’t out of the norm.

My dad and I spoke for a while.  Once we hung up I did what any self-respecting citizen of the 21st century does after completing an activity:  I posted my race result to Facebook.  The post is still there.  It’s time-stamped 3:11 PM.

The bombs went off at 2:49 PM.  The “fireworks” I heard while chatting with my dad were the explosions.

Anyhow, by the time I posted my result to Facebook, the sirens were beyond even what you might write off as the norm in a city.  I looked out the hotel window.  There were dozens of police cars & ambulances surrounding the medical tent and scores of EMTs and police officers swarming the area.  Far more than would be needed to attend to dehydration and cramps.  I was concerned.

I checked my phone.  A close friend and fellow high school basketball coach had just commented on my Facebook post:  “congrats brother. now get out of Boston.”  I was more concerned.

I turned on the tv.  Stations were reporting that there’d been a kitchen fire in a restaurant near the finish line.   Soon, the reports changed: there’d been a bombing and law enforcement suspected that there were other bombs in hotels near the finish.

Bombs in hotels near the finish line?

Panic started to set in.  Part of me told myself “sit down, stay here, it’s a kitchen explosion, things will be fine.”  That part of me lost the internal debate.  I grabbed my giant duffel bag, jammed stuff in, and fled.  I was still wearing the clothes I’d run in, as well as my race bib.

As I left my room, memories of 9/11 made me decide against the elevators.  I took the stairs, 33 flights down.  I ran, hoping to get out before my hotel blew up.

When I reached the bottom, the stairwell opened onto Huntington Avenue.  It was chaos.  A mass of people running away from the finish area.  I ran with the masses.  After just moments, the mass turned back on itself.  Someone had dropped a knapsack in the street and people thought it was a bomb.  So, we ran in a different direction.

A block or two later, I was spit out onto a street that was less crowded.  Not knowing what else to do, I headed for South Station.

Boston’s street pattern isn’t exactly intuitive.  Also, even in a regular year, many streets in and around Copley Plaza are closed during the marathon, even to pedestrians  Combined with the confusion and the security response to the bombings, the effect was disorienting.

It was also terrifying.  Nobody knew what was going on.  People thought the city was under attack.  Police and military were everywhere.  Cell phones weren’t working. I chose streets that looked less likely to be bomb targets.  Writing that, I don’t even know what it means, but it meant something in the moment.

Eventually, I stopped to rest on a bench in a bus stop.  My damn bag was so heavy.  That trip is the last that I so cavalierly stuffed every bit of clothing I might never need into an outrageously & unnecessarily giant travel bag.  Anyhow, I didn’t sit long.  I decided that it wasn’t safe to be inside the glass shelter if and when it shattered in the next explosion.

I made it South Station at 4:45.  My ticket was for the next day, but I asked if I could get on the next bus.  Turns out, when you travel Dartmouth Coach to Boston, the departure date & time on the ticket don’t really mean anything.  A ticket gets you onto to any bus on your route, any day, any time, first come, first serve.  The next bus for Lebanon was at 5:30.  So, I got in line and waited.

Rumors started to circulate that the airports, train stations, and bus stations were going to be shut down.  Just moments  before we boarded, 10 military guys swept thru the station with assault weapons and ferocious German Shepherds.  As we boarded, the PA system announced that the station had been closed and all departures cancelled.  Somehow, our bus driver got us out.

The rest is unimportant. I charged my phone and, once we’d made it about 10 miles north of the city, service returned, I made contact with family and friends.

As for the “what ifs” and “whys” that, in most aspects of life, I never ask myself . . .

. . what if my dad had come? At a marathon, it’s common to plan to meet friends & family near the finish line after the race.  Is that what we would’ve done?  If so, we’d have been standing there when the first bomb went off.

Or, what if I wasn’t so lazy and, instead of trudging to my hotel, had walked one block further in order to get around the medical tent and to the finish line to watch others?

Also, I’ve always found it hard to reconcile the profound impact that the day had on me.  Namely, why was I so scared? I am incapable of describing my fear as I ran from my hotel to South Station.  What I can’t quite reconcile is knowing – with crystal clarity – how scared I was while never once being in a whit of danger.  My experience utterly pales in comparison to those who endured terror up close & personal.  Those who, less than a block from my hotel, had to wade through human carnage to make it to safety.

Finally, I often wonder why I panicked and ran.  Why did I run away instead of running to help?  Trust me, I get it: I’m not a medic and, if not useless, I’d just have been in the way.  But not totally useless. No matter how small, there was plenty of help to be given that day.  Yet it never even occurred to me to run to give it.  My only thought was to get the hell out.  So many others chose to help.  My choice – to run away – bothers me.

But I know I can’t let it.  What I can do is use the experience to remind myself that I have to help whenever I can. I’m not talking about in response to terror attacks or mass disasters.  I’m talking about the myriad moments that arise every single day and in which I can choose to help someone . . . or not.

So as much as the choice I made that day bothers me, I’ve tried to use it to inform future choices.  I choose to help.

Consider the same.  Help wherever and whenever you can. And never forget that the help you give might not change the world, but it might mean the world to the person you help.  Or, as stated much more eloquently in my favorite parable:

“One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.

The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”

The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said,

“I made a difference to that one!”

I ran Boston again in 2014.  I wasn’t in marathon shape, but had qualified and wanted to honor the victims of 2013.  It was cathartic.  The crowd support was indescribable.  A million people cheering and thanking runners.

My brother came to support me.  It was such an emotional day for me that, when I finished, I walked all the way to Boston Common, then sat down and cried.  Soon, my brother was by my side. At that moment, I was a starfish and he threw me back.

Patrick Kennedy made a difference that day.

Make a difference to 1 today.  You’ll never look back and ask why you did.

Onto the quiz.

Image result for boston strong ribbon


  • None.  Open book, open search engine, text/phone/email-a-friend.
  • Exception – but one that is loosely enforced – #5 (“loosely” = “aspirational”)
  • Unless stated otherwise, the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct apply
  • Team entries welcome, creative team names even more welcome.
  • E-mail answers to
  • I’ll post the answers & Honor Roll on Monday
  • Please don’t use the “comment” feature to post your answers
  • Please consider sharing the quiz with friends & colleagues
  • Please consider sharing the quiz on social media.  Hashtag it – #fiveforfriday

Question 1

There’s a rule that includes a “self-defense” exception for lawyers.  But for the exception, what does the rule generally prohibit?

  • A.  Punching clients.  .
  • B.  Representing a family member.
  • C.  Unauthorized disclosure of confidential information.
  • D.  Unauthorized disbursements from trust.

Question 2

Lawyer called me with an inquiry.  I listened, then said: “it depends, did you receive information that could be significantly harmful to that person?”

My words “that person” refers to:

  • A.  a prospective client who met with, but did not retain, Lawyer.
  • B.  a prospective juror
  • C.  an opposing party who mistakenly emailed Lawyer
  • D.  a current client

Question 3

Lawyer refers Client to Attorney. Lawyer does no work on the matter and does not assume joint responsibility for it.  Under Vermont’s rules, Attorney:

  • A.   Must not share any portion of the fee with Lawyer
  • B.    May share the fee with Lawyer
  • C.    May share the fee with Lawyer, but only if Client consents
  • D.   Must report Lawyer to disciplinary counsel

Question 4

The phrase “reasonable remedial measures” is associated with the rules on:

  • A.  Competence & diligence
  • B.  Trust accounting
  • C.   Client confidences
  • D.  Candor to a Tribunal

Question 5

Lately, I’ve spoken often on lawyer wellness and the staggering rates at which substance abuse and other behavioral health issues affect lawyers.  Which reminds me of a lawyer named Dr. Gonzo . . .

Oscar Zeta Acosta was a real life American attorney, author, and activist. He disappeared in 1974 and hasn’t been seen since.

Acosta was good friends with a famous author.  2 trips that they took together inspired the author to write one of the most well-known novels on 1960’s counter-culture.  In it, the character Dr. Gonzo is based on Acosta.

Name the novel.







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