There were many people who went to the 2014 Boston Marathon to heal. For runners and spectators alike, the race was a moment for the population to stand up for itself.
Along with the people who attend and participate in the event, there are those who are not commonly perceived as traumatized by incidents of this magnitude.
Journalists were among those who were on the finish line of last year’s marathon and near the subsequent explosion. Normally the Boston Marathon is a day of exciting photography and storytelling triumph.
Last year, it turned to one of tragedy, when two bombs exploded near the finish line. As the bombs detonated, a man who had just finished the race collapsed due to the shockwave from the blast.
One photo-journalist began snapping pictures as the chaos began. He then took what became an iconic photo: the collapsed older runner with three police officers above him moving swiftly into action.
This photojournalist, John Tlumacki, has been covering the Boston Marathon for 21 years and has been at the finish line for the last six of them.
Tlumacki took approximately 2,000 pictures that day and he regretted it as soon as it was over. About 200 of the photos he took were of the aftermath of the bombing.
“Then I felt horrible. I felt I took advantage of people when they were down. That night was the worst night of my life, just reliving that whole scene over and over and over again,” said Tlumacki in an interview with USA Today.
Tlumacki’s story is a stark reminder of the fact that the media is made up of individuals, or people just as human as those whose lives they document.
He felt horrendous about the photos he had made. Tlumacki said that in the days following the blast he didn’t know if the people had had made pictures of were dead or alive.
But Tlumacki was surprised with the response he received from those who he had photographed. Despite the fact that his photos portrayed these people in the most graphic manner possible, people wanted to meet him.
It was through connections like this that Tlumacki was able to heal from the mental trauma he had incurred during last year’s marathon. He, like the thousands of others who were affected that day, used this year’s marathon as a sort of final piece towards his recovery.
Tlumacki is not the only journalist who was haunted by the horrible events he has covered.
Coolumbia University runs a program called the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. There is also a center in Europe.
“”[They] stay on target, stay on mission and do wonderful, wonderful work and stay balanced for a long time. But you can’t carry on walking a tightrope forever. You need to take some rest and you need to get away from the job,” said Gavin Rees, director of the Dart Centre Europe for Journalism and Trauma, in an interview with Teresa Fitzherbert, a student in the Magazine MA journalism course.
She refers to the trend of journalists who cover stressful events and do not seek treatment or their own personal healing. While most emergency response professions have a system for dealing with trauma, journalism does not have this same safety net. Even though Tlumacki was able to heal on his own, his is a more rare example. In what is considered the most stressful profession in the world, there needs to be a fall back for journalists who may be suffering from conditions as minor as a little anxiety to as severe as PTSD.