When Beth Zerilli told her 8-year-old daughter that she planned to run the 2014 Boston Marathon, Sophie burst into tears.
“She said, ‘You can’t do that. You’re going to get hurt,’” Zerilli recalled.
Sophie’s fears made sense. Most of what Sophie knew about the Boston Marathon was related to the tragic events of the 2013 Marathon, which struck particularly close to home since the Zerillis’ college friends, Bill and Denise Richard, lost their 8-year-old son Martin in the bombings.
Zerilli’s husband, Sal, lived with Bill Richard and another friend, Larry Marchese, in college when they were in the same fraternity at Bridgewater State. The three men and their significant others all grew to be close friends by the time they graduated. But when the Zerillis moved out of state after college – first to Los Angeles, then Seattle and Toronto – the couples were busy raising their own families and it proved difficult to stay in touch more than a phone call every now and then updating each other on the latest in everyone’s lives.
Then came a life-changing call last April from Marchese. The Zerillis were in Canada on Marathon Monday to finish packing up their home in Toronto since they had moved back to Massachusetts in January. The cable was already disconnected, so they had no Internet or television to tell them what was going on in Boston. The Zerillis did not know how bad it was until Monday night, when they received a call from Marchese telling them Martin was killed and his younger sister Jane lost her leg.
“Our initial response was how soon we could do something for them,” Zerilli said. “We didn’t want to bother Bill and Denise but we knew the Marcheses were helping the Richard family with their children. They were in the hospital with them. We were just saying ‘OK, we’re going to be home in two days. Can we watch your kids? What can we do for you so you can help support them?’”