EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 24, 2013

Finish line denied, marriage proposal delayed

By Dave Dyer

---- — Jump: headline headline headline Rachel Dowd did get the thrill of a lifetime at the Boston Marathon last week. It just wasn’t the thrill she expected.

Because of the explosions on Boyston Street, near the finish line, she wasn’t able to get that “rush” runners get when they finish the Boston Marathon.

What she didn’t realize was that she was missing out on another thrill, as her boyfriend was waiting for her at the finish line ready to propose to her.

The 26-year-old Dowd, running for the Morgan Memorial Goodwill Youth Initiative, was competing in her first marathon and excited about finishing in a respectable four hours.

“I was in one of the first rows of people when we were stopped and we didn’t know why,” said Dowd. “Then we heard that there were explosions and then after a little while we heard there were bombs.

“Then it got crazy. A lot of people were upset, some (runners) were getting sick or passing out, others were shivering. Nobody knew what to do.

“I couldn’t get in touch with my family, which was at the finish line and I remember thinking that if they (terrorists) wanted to hurt people, they could hurt a lot of people. I sprinted to Boylston Street but they wouldn’t let me get there. I was texting and calling like crazy but I was losing power and couldn’t get through. A woman, who I found out was from Canada, stopped and helped me and I was at least able to get through with her phone.”

Just as panicky were Dowd’s family and boyfriend, Steven Polizzotti of Dracut, her brother John and his girlfriend and her best friend from Salem High School, Atara Oven. They set out to find her.

Polizzotti was less worried about the proposal than he was in finding Dowd.

Eventually, Dowd’s family weaved through alleys, got past barricades and were able to reach Dowd.

“It was a relief, but they saw some terrible things trying to find me,” said Dowd. “I was just happy that everyone was safe. I didn’t get (to experience) that amazing feeling you get at the end (of a marathon) but, in the grand scheme of things, that’s pretty minimal.”

Dowd did get her other thrill, a few hours later than it was supposed to be given when Polizzotti proposed to her at a loading dock her brother drove them to.

“It was a total surprise,” said Dowd, who will run the last stage of the 26.2 miles in Boston Saturday with other members of her Goodwill team. “All everyone had been talking about since January was the marathon and I hadn’t even thought this (proposal) would be coming. It was definitely nice.”

In that respect, it put a slight silver lining on a day that Dowd will never forget.

As for the empty feeling of not finishing the complete marathon, she thinks she might try it again next year if ...

“I think I’ll probably run it but only if my family doesn’t come,” she said. “That feeling of not knowing if all of them were safe is something I don’t want to experience again.”