As the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings approached, a group of 40 MIT students, faculty, alumni, and staff honored the memory of Sean Collier, the MIT police officer killed in the aftermath, in a way he might have appreciated—by taking on a challenge. They banded together as the MIT Strong team to run this year’s Boston Marathon and raise money for the Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund. Some were elite runners; others had never run more than a mile. But all were determined to respond to the senseless tragedies of last April by doing something positive. So they slogged through one of the snowiest Cambridge winters in memory to train.
On April 18, three days before the marathon, the team joined some 1,500 members of the MIT community and the Collier family on the corner of Vassar and Main streets, near the spot where the vibrant young officer was shot. “Sean’s life was lost, but his spirit remains and has been amplified a hundredfold,” said graduate student Sara Ferry in one of many moving tributes. “This community has been strengthened by countless new bonds of friendship and support.” Plans for a permanent memorial—a granite structure symbolizing an open hand—were also unveiled at the ceremony.
That afternoon, MIT held a rally for the MIT Strong runners, who included a sophomore and a submarine commander as well as alumni from classes as far back as 1960. “They were undaunted by the cold, the ice, the slush and snow, and the uncleared sidewalks,” said chancellor Cynthia Barnhart. “They ran on, knowing that much greater sacrifices had been made and … so that we can show the world that we are still strong, we are a team, and we will keep doing the things that define us as a community.”
On race day, 39 MIT runners departed from Hopkinton and were greeted by chants of “MIT Strong” at seven MIT cheering stations along the route. All 39 finished the marathon, whether it took them less than three hours or more than six. And together they raised $206,689 for the Collier Fund, which will support the Collier campus memorial and scholarships to MIT and the Lowell Police Academy.
The runners’ shirts—and the signs carried by those who cheered them on—summed it up: MIT Strong. Mens. Manus. Fortis.