Andrew Ruggiero had a special surprise planned for his girlfriend, Melissa Blasczyk, when she crossed the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon — he was going to get down on one knee and propose in front of friends, family and spectators.
But he never got the chance to do that.
In a post on her blog, Confessions of a Northern Belle, Blasczyk’s best friend, Caitlin Houston, wrote about traveling from Baltimore to Boston to watch her friend run the marathon and waiting near the finish line with Ruggiero.
Ruggiero, a former Bentley University football player, had gone to the nines, staging an elaborate proposal that involved him getting the necessary credentials to don a volunteer jacket and work at the Gatorade tent at the finish line. Ruggiero had also been in contact with The Boston Herald and a news crew to get photos and film the event.
“After he met with the press, he told us we were going to stand on the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth, less than 100 yards from the finish line,” Houston wrote in her post.
But when the two explosions occurred, everything around the group turned to chaos and Ruggiero’s plans were changed.
“We were cheering and staring anxiously at the finish line when the bomb went off,” Houston wrote. “It was the loudest sound I have ever heard, and the earth shook. My ears were ringing. There was smoke and lots of screaming. I prayed that my eyes were playing tricks on me. I immediately knew it was something serious though, and started yelling, ‘IT’S A BOMB, IT’S A BOMB.'”
No one in their group was injured, but at the time of the blasts, Blasczyk still had not crossed the finish line. They knew she was due in a matter of minutes, but were not sure how far back she had been.
It turned out that Blasczyk, a former soccer player at Bentley University, had been held up about a half-mile from the finish line, and spent the next hour trying to reunite with her friends and family. She happened upon friends walking out of Fenway Park who told her what had happened and helped her to get a ride home.
The group met back at the couple’s home in South Boston, and Ruggiero went ahead with his plan. Blasczyk hadn’t even had a chance to take her shoes off yet.
Ruggiero posted about the day’s events on his Facebook page, recounting the terrifying images.
“I saw the darkest acts of evil from 100 feet away along with horrible injuries of those at the blast,” he said. “The panicked look on people’s faces, folks asking me for help because I had the yellow volunteer jacket.”
“I saw a lot of greatness, too, and that’s supersedes the evil. I saw the folks sprinting down Boylston [Street] with stretchers and wheelchairs trying to help people. I saw people consoling each other and simply trying to help in any possible way… From simply reassuring folks their loved ones are OK, and you will be reunited soon, to the wonderful joy in my living room when we all safely got back to our house in South Boston to the look on Melissa’s face when I got down one one knee and her saying YES!”
Though Boston will forever remember this Patriots’ Day for its tragic events at the Marathon, Ruggiero and Blasczyk will also remember the day as the beginning of their forever together.
Photos courtesy of Caitlin Houston.