It was five years ago that Extended Opportunity Programs and Services Counselor Tayler Nichols was just one mile away from the Boston Marathon finish line, cheering on people from around the world finishing their 26.2-mile run. She didn’t know then that day would turn into one of the most tragic days in Boston history.
“We had heard the bombs go off near the finish line, but we had no idea what the noise was,” Nichols said. “Then my cousin got a text from the finish line saying, ‘don’t come down here, we literally had to run for our lives.’ The spectators started leaving but the runners didn’t know what was going on, they were running right into it.”
It wasn’t until later she found out the explosion she heard were two homemade bombs that killed three people and injured several hundred others, including 16 people who lost limbs.
Now, on April 16, Nichols will return to Boston to run the Boston Marathon on the five-year anniversary of the bombings. Though it’s her first “official race” (she’s run twice before under different circumstances), she’s been a part of the marathon as a spectator for almost 10 years, since her first year as an undergrad at Boston University.
“The Boston Marathon is usually such an amazing event, it’s a coming together of cities and people from all over the world,” she said. “It’s usually such a happy day, the streets are packed with people celebrating. That day of the bombings, the town was so somber and heartbreaking. The streets were empty and everyone was wondering what had just happened and who did this.”
Nichols is running the marathon and raising money for the Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Stepping Strong Team. So far she’s raised more than $5,000 (out of her $6,000 goal) for the Stepping Strong Team. The team was created after runner Gillian Reny survived the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and was rushed to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where they were able to save both her legs and her life. The money raised goes to those who have suffered and been affected by traumatic injuries and events.
As a counselor, Nichols says that she often sees students who have experienced traumatic events in their life, both physically and emotionally. She’s seen student veterans who have been wounded in combat, students who have been the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and students who have struggled with their mental health.
“I’ve worked with so many students who have gone through some really rough times,” she said. “Brigham and Women’s Hospital is such a well-known hospital and the research they do can help everyone, including our students.”
As an EOPS counselor, Nichols spends her days seeing students back-to-back all day long to help them with whatever challenges they’re facing. She develops student education plans with them, helps them find services and even leads workshops for the EOPS department.
“At EOPS, we’re able to build strong relationships with our students,” she said. “I love seeing them excited and proud when they graduate because we know the obstacles they have overcome to achieve their educational goals. They are so diverse and have so many different backgrounds, it’s nice to be a small part of their story at Southwestern College.”
Nichols has been training for months to run the oldest marathon in the country. She says she often channels the tenacity and determination she sees in her students to help her in her training and fundraising.
“I’m excited and proud to be running for such a good cause,” she said. “Even though it’s just an athletic event, it helps people in so many other capacities. Through the number of charities, it impacts not only Boston but the greater community.”