By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
ARLINGTON — Haller Middle School assistant principal Faye Britt crossed the Boston Marathon finish line about 20 minutes before the explosions.
On Monday, most of her students ran around the school athletic field at lunch to raise money for victims of the attack. For each of the school’s 670 students who finished a mile run or walk, the assistant principal pledged to donate $1.
Britt, 38, of Everett, guesses she’ll send about $600 to The One Fund Boston to help the people most hurt by the bombs that went off April 15 near the marathon’s finish line. The blasts killed three people and injured more than 140.
For Britt, last week’s marathon was her 49th, and the fifth time she had run in Boston.
“I’ve been a runner most of my life,” said Britt, who grew up in London. She moved to the United States in 2000 and taught physical education in Snohomish before being hired in Arlington eight years ago.
“Even when I was a child, I knew I wanted to run the Boston Marathon,” she said. “You have to qualify to run, so to me it’s like the Olympic marathon for short people.”
Britt is tiny enough that while walking with a crowd of students out to the field on Monday, she was recognizable only because of her blue and yellow Boston Marathon jacket.
“I ran the marathon last week in 3:40:19. Not my best time,” Britt recalled. “I walked back to my hotel and was in the lobby when I heard what I first thought was a bus backfiring. Then I got a text message from my coach asking if I was OK.”
Suddenly, there was a lot of panic and chaos, Britt said.
“We were told to take cover in the hotel. Runners were coming toward us followed by people carrying the injured. Good thing there were so many medical tents set up for the marathon. I think those medics played a big role in saving lives,” she said. “What blew me away was how many runners ran back to the finish line to help out.”
In the past, Britt’s husband, Michael, stood at the same location as the site of the first explosion to watch her finish the marathon. She was glad he stayed home this time and she sent him a text message telling him she was OK.
“The whole thing felt surreal and so much like what we watched after Sept. 11, 2001. It was on a smaller scale, but it was that same sort of panic,” she said. A couple of hours later, Britt was able to hop on one of the last shuttle vans headed to the airport for her scheduled flight before Boston was shut down.
“When I got to school on Tuesday, I was numb. It took days before I was able to talk about it. I got a lot of hugs from the kids and the staff,” said Britt, who knew right away that she would donate to the fund for victims.
“The men who did this weren’t specifically out to hurt runners, but they took an opportunity to hurt the spectators, the crowd of people watching the runners,” Britt said. “I felt compelled to help the victims and I thought I would give the kids a chance to be part of it. It’s a way for them to see that there is more about life than their little world.”
Middle school moms Bo Gutierrez and Michelle Jaromin were among the volunteers helping the kids run on Monday.
“It was so tough last week when we didn’t know yet if she was OK,” Jaromin said.
Out on the track, a group of seventh grade girls, including Sophia Iverson, Emily Neiman and Abigail Palmer, walked with their friend Allison Stansberry, who is on crutches while healing from a recent surgery.
“It was cool that Ms. Britt wasn’t injured,” Allison said. “And I am so glad that so many students and parents showed up to give her support.”
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.