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Readers share their memories of the Boston Marathon bombing 10 years later

Readers recount their memories of the Boston Marathon Bombing 10 years later
Our readers share what memories have stuck with them from the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. (Produced by Olivia Yarvis/Globe Staff)

It’s been nearly 10 years since the domestic terrorist attack that took place at the 2013 Boston Marathon. Three people were killed and hundreds of others were injured when two homemade pressure cooker bombs were detonated near the finish line of the race. Following the attack, two suspects were identified and a manhunt ensued.

For those with a connection to Boston at the time, the week of the 2013 Boston Marathon is one they will never forget.

One decade later, we asked our readers to tell us what memories have stuck with them from the bombing and the days that followed.


Below is a collection of some of their responses:

“Walking home from Fenway I cut through Prudential/Copley Place because of the cold. In front of where Paper Source now is, the entire structure shook. Everyone looked around, I kept walking - faster. The building shook again. I was convinced it was falling so I started running and exited to Ring Road by California Kitchen. I was met by a wall of people screaming, crying and running from Boylston and Ring toward the South End. I saw what looked like smoke on Boylston so I ran without stopping to my building on Father Gilday Street. Then without knowing why, I sobbed, took the elevator to my apartment, turned on the television where I was glued for the next three days. I’m from Charleston, SC where my family still is. One thought still sticks out: the only person to actually phone to ask if I was ok was my niece, Hayden. That’s when I started using Twitter. I may be hallucinating but I feel as though I live-tweeted for three days. Reliving it just now makes me feel I need a Valium.”-Nancy F., South End

‘For months after I felt hollowed out. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that we had been standing right at the location of the first bomb less than a minute before it went off.’

“I was a sophomore in college at BU, and I went down to Copley to watch the marathon with three friends. We were standing right at the finish line. We decided we all wanted to go get iced coffee, so we started walking down Dartmouth St to Newbury. Moments after we turned down Dartmouth, we heard a loud bang. We thought maybe it was gunshots or a car backfiring, but then we looked around and saw people running. People were crying and screaming so we knew something bad had happened but we didn’t know what. I ran up to the first cop I saw and asked him, and he said that a bomb had gone off in the subway. We knew we had to get out of there quickly, but we didn’t know where it was safe to go. I was afraid that other bombs would go off in the subway and collapse the ground beneath our feet (We didn’t learn until later in the evening what had actually happened). We decided to run to the Charles River Esplanade, and we walked along the river the whole way back to Allston. I remember feeling numb but having a lot of mental clarity. I self-appointed myself the leader of our group and my whole focus was getting us back home. We sat in front of the TV all night eating pizza. For months after I felt hollowed out. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that we had been standing right at the location of the first bomb less than a minute before it went off. I couldn’t get over the fact that a sudden urge for iced coffee was possibly the only thing that kept myself and my three closest friends alive. Life couldn’t possibly be that random, could it?”-Lily L., Somerville


“Was there with my wife watching our two sons running in ‘13 as one did not finish in the 90+ degree heat the year before and the other wanted to run a better time. We watched them both come by the Apple Store as we were watching from the 2nd floor of the Apple Store. Once they went by us and we left the Apple Store to walk to the finish area. This video shows us (gold hoodies at 5:20 mark) and my wife literally walk right by and stood next to Bomber #2 in the white hat.”-Jack M., Marshfield


“As a photographer I’ve shot the Marathon many times over the years...But 2013 was the very first time I had press credentials. I convinced Running Magazine to hire me to shoot the elite runners coming up Heartbreak Hill. But what I really wanted the pass for was to access the Comm. Ave tunnel under Mass Ave. I had previously shot there (before being told to move it) and it was a quiet, cool oasis from the cacophony of the race. The background of the distressed concrete wall and the split light on the runners made it an unusually arty portrait opportunity. So after an hour or so in Wellesley, I headed to my spot. I was there shooting for about an hour, soon to embark on my usual route of Comm. Ave to Hereford to Boylston and the finish line when I heard the first explosion. My initial thought was, ‘They’re firing a cannon now? That’s new.’ Then the second explosion followed. The runners slowly started backing up in the tunnel. Something was wrong. Way wrong. I exited and went up toward the crowd. At first nobody knew what was going on but quickly news spread that there had been a bombing. I photographed the shocked runners on the Mall for a while and then went toward Boylston Street. By that time, the police had cordoned off the area and were warning of more possible explosions. Cell service was spotty and my friends and relatives who knew what I was up to were all trying in vain to get in touch. I shot for another hour or so. One photo I didn’t take was of a young woman who had someone else’s blood on her face. It’s the photos you don’t take that stay with you the most vividly.”-Michael M., Leather District


‘I think about the woman that I left there on the ground all the time.’

“I was across the street from the second bomb that went off. Shrapnel hit people all around me, but I was untouched. I remember looking down at my body to check if I was hurt, and my eyes came across a woman on the ground instead whose leg was bleeding. A lot. I remember feeling shocked at how much a person could bleed in only a couple of seconds. She asked me for help, her arms lifted up in the sky towards me, pleading to be helped in some way -- maybe picked up? But I didn’t know what to do. Try to carry her? Carry her where? I was probably 120 pounds, 5′3 and she looked to be about 5 or so inches taller than me. I knew I couldn’t lift her…I think about the woman that I left there on the ground all the time. I have all the post-trauma logic and mantras I know I’m supposed to use -- I left her right where she could get the most help the quickest, I could have injured her more trying to move her, and wherever I would have moved her to would have only been further away from medical attention. Of course, we didn’t know that then. I could have been leaving her there to die (I think we all thought we might be standing right on top of the next explosion about to happen any millisecond). And she looked so, so scared. And there wasn’t another explosion, so I could have stayed and helped her. Again, I know the post-trauma mantra I’m supposed to say to myself, something like ‘you can’t use the information you learned afterwards to judge the decisions you made in the moment’. And I tell myself, I know she got help. But sometimes those mantras don’t help. I still feel (expletive) awful. Sometimes I close my eyes and picture going back to her and doing what I wish I did before: comforting her, flagging down someone who could help. It’s been 10 years, but I’m not sure that will ever really go away. No matter how at peace I feel, no matter how much I think I’ve forgiven myself. However much I heal, it’s not enough. It’s hard. It’s not always hard because of the guilt, either. Just all the pain you experience when you live through something like that -- you can’t forget it. So every time there’s a mass shooting, a bombing, news coverage of war, you feel the pain again, because you can feel it when you see it happen to other people. You know what it’s like to feel that terror, live through each moment in that chaos, and make decisions that you have to live with forever.”-Avery S., Arlington


“I didn’t know something had actually gone wrong until the train operator made a second announcement: all Green Line trains were now out of service. As soon as I made it back up to ground level, I knew something bad had happened. Police cars and ambulances roared past and sirens blasted from all directions. Above, at least a dozen helicopters made circles in the sky. People were frantically checking their cell phones. I began trying to figure out where and how to get on another train when I overheard two women next to me talking about a bomb exploding at the marathon finish line. I froze. Katie wasn’t at the finish line, but she was close. I gripped my cell phone and dialed her number. It didn’t work. I tried again and again but the call wouldn’t go through. I was too focused on getting in touch with Katie to be scared. Suddenly, without my phone ringing, I received a voicemail from one of our friends that I had left her with. ‘Hey Ryan, it’s Tristan. Just trying to check in. Give us a call back when you get this. We’re still together. All of us.’ (I still have this voicemail saved on my phone.) Thank God. I knew they were a full mile from the finish line, but I had no concept of the extent of the damage. As I walked as fast as possible out of the city, I passed a building with outward-facing televisions and saw live footage of what was happening. A small crowd had gathered around the screens, and I stopped to watch the bird’s-eye view footage and scrolling text detailing the destruction. People stood around me with hands over their mouths, and a few women walked up to the group and announced that they had been at the finish line. They shared details I didn’t want to hear or believe. All of us eventually made it home safely that afternoon. Still, I couldn’t shake the feelings of confusion, unease, and sadness. This attack hit too close to home—a place where I felt safe—and it left me more unsettled than I wanted to admit. But the tragedy did bring me closer to my family, friends, and city.”-Ryan T., Cambridge

A remembrance project is photographed along the Boylston St. fence outside the Arlington St. Church.Rev. Catie Scudera

“The photograph I’ve attached is from a few days later, because the aftermath of the bombing is what I remember best. I was serving as the ministerial intern (an apprentice on my way to ordination) at Arlington Street Church, Unitarian Universalist, in 2013. We were the only house of worship in the Back Bay that could still access our church building in the immediate aftermath of the bombing; the containment zone originally went up to Arlington Street, so we could get to our sanctuary front doors... I remember riding the T to the Arlington Street station that week, with Copley Station eerily vacant. Under direction from Rev. Kim Crawford Harvie (still senior minister at ASC) we hosted over a thousand Bostonians on Tuesday (the 16th) night for an interfaith vigil that began in our sanctuary and ended in the Public Garden. I remember then-Rep. Ed Markey was in attendance. A congregant organized a remembrance project along our Boylston St fence (as photographed) that grew to innumerable ties and objects. I remember Big Papi declaring ‘this is our (expletive) city’ and the elation at Fenway when we won the World Series that October... I remember the terror, too, as the Tsarnaev brothers were found in Cambridge and then lost again in Watertown, where a friend’s family lived. I developed a stress ulcer by the end of the month.”-Rev. Catie Scudera, Needham Heights

‘I realized horrific events will always happen but I couldn’t let that get in my way.’

“I was with my 2 year old daughter at a park in Newton when my phone started ringing with friends calling me asking me where I was. I had been at the finish line the day before taking a picture of my daughter joking I would be running next year. My sister said she thought it was a gas explosion but everyone wanted to know I was safe. I watched the tv constantly thereafter and became an internet sleuth like everyone else. I had suffered my 3rd miscarriage the Thursday before and I had thought my entire world ended until I saw the tv coverage of the bombs exploding and learning a child had died. My personal grief dissipated and was replaced with grief for families I would never meet and just grief for the loss of a feeling of safety. I really only started to process my own grief once the suspects were caught and we all learned how and what happened. I didn’t think I would have another child because of my prior health issues but also because of not wanting to bring another child into a world where bombs are exploding in my own state. However, seeing the resiliency of our state shortly thereafter, hearing stories of people driving strangers home, giving cell phones to strangers to call family members, runners leaving the finish line to give blood or leaving the finish line just to help out, gave me a different perspective. I realized horrific events will always happen but I couldn’t let that get in my way. My daughter Riley was born 2 months premature that year on New Year’s eve. I was on bed rest for 2 months leading up to her birth. She seemed like a miracle baby because she was born healthy despite everything that happened leading up to her birth. I cry as I write this because I cry whenever I think about this bombing. Tears of sadness for what happened but also tears of joy knowing we all made it through such darkness and we are all stronger because of it.”-Anonymous, Cambridge

A photograph of the newcast days after the bombing when police were searching for suspects.Ray Swartz

“Two things stick in my mind. The first was that I was on Twitter on Marathon Monday when I saw a tweet saying there was an explosion near the finish line. I saw Ben Affleck’s tweet that mentioned a ‘senseless and tragic day,’ but I didn’t understand. Then I saw Jackie Bruno’s (NECN) tweet which said ‘I saw people’s legs blown off. Horrific. Two explosions. Runners were coming in and saw unspeakable horror.’ The second memory is from Friday. I lived in Watertown. I had gone to bed without hearing anything about the murder of the MIT policeman and the shootout. My girlfriend woke me up around 6 am and said to me, ‘You’re not going to work today. Watertown is under a lockdown.’ I spent the day glued to the TV and expecting a SWAT team to come to the door, but that didn’t happen. When the bomber was caught in the boat, he was about 1.2 miles from where I was. Later, I saw the impromptu parade for the first responders, going over the Galen Street bridge. That was joyful and amazing. One more thing. The following Sunday I went to the site of the shootout in Watertown, where I saw many bullet holes in cars and houses.”-Ray S., Salem

‘I haven’t stepped foot in the city on marathon Monday since that day.’

“My pregnant wife and I stood on the corner of Hereford and Boylston when we heard (and felt) the first bomb explode. The second was a mere block and 1 1/2 from where we were standing. I remember feeling the ground move and the smoke. Nobody thought it was a bomb but I had a feeling. I convinced my wife to start back toward our home in the South End. As we were walking, people were passing us looking bewildered and confused. I kept telling strangers that a bomb had gone off even though we had no idea what had just happened. We went home and tried to open our doors to anyone who was stranded in the area at that time. Two days later, my wife started bleeding. We thought she had lost the pregnancy due to the stress of that day but, thank God we were wrong. She was just ordered to rest for a few days. I still feel the terror of that day whenever I drive down Boylston as the marathon is being prepared. I haven’t stepped foot in the city on marathon Monday since that day.”-Matt H., Concord

“As an occasional participant and as part of the running community it was the ‘end of the innocence’ for all of us. I watched at mile 16 and returned home (with my daughter) and turned on the television to see how the Red Sox did, only to see the chaos and have my phone ring with friend’s checking on me, while my friends (Marshfield Road Runners and Boston Police Runners) that did run were unavailable. Our family friend (Robbie Wheeler) visited us at mile 16 and was at the finish when it happened. I keep in touch with Robbie but the silverlining is a catch 22 for sure.”-Anonymous, Humarock

“Strangely, one thing that sticks with me is Jimmy Kimmel’s jaw-dropping ‘joke’ after the bombing. He asked why Bostonians were making such a big deal about the marathon bombings because -- after all -- only 3 people died (compared, I guess, to NYC on 9/11). I still can’t watch him to this day.”-Anonymous, Waltham

“I was late to marathon running. I ran my first at age 49, my first Boston at 54. 2013 was my second Boston Marathon. I had finished about 30 minutes before the bombing. Back then, the BAA had tents for runners to change from racing gear into street clothes. I had just changed and walked to meet my wife at the family gathering area. Once together, we walked along St. James Street, towards the Common, when the first attack happened. As there is always construction happening, we innocently thought it was construction debris being dumped. When we heard the second blast, we started to wonder. We turned left on Arlington Street, the wail of emergency vehicles became constant. When we reached Boylston we looked left and saw smoke and a sea of yellow jacketed volunteer’s streaming towards the common. That’s what I remember the most, the yellow jackets of the volunteers leaving the finish line. By this time it was obvious that something bad had happened... we thought maybe a subway accident. It was not until we stopped outside a Tech. store on Tremont Street which had a live TV playing in the window that we learned it was an attack. That was when I thought to turn on my cell phone and saw the dozens of messages from family and friends asking if we were okay. I have run 2 Boston Marathons since the attack.”-Michael F., Swampscott

“I had no idea about the marathon bombing at first because my 2nd child of 7 months had just started sleeping through the night and the exhaustion of also having a toddler was too much to get through any given day alertly. I remember my cell rang in the wee hours and I answered with ‘who died?’ because why would anybody call that early since I have a baby? A concerned friend told me to get the family into the basement and away from windows, since we lived in Watertown and the marathon bombers were on the loose in that town. Then the house and cell phones kept ringing for the same reasons. I turned on the news and learned about everything. It was such an emotional time to see the footage and also be in lockdown with an energetic 2 year old who desperately wanted to go outside. As we anxiously awaited police or perpetrators at our house ( thankfully that never happened on our side of town), we couldn’t fathom how such a sacred event of the marathon had been destroyed. We checked on friends who ran and attended to ensure their safety, then stayed home, stunned as the manhunt unfolded and eventually as resolved. We bought Watertown Strong shirts to support the community and remained on edge for months. The next marathon, I took the kids to watch runners pass through Wellesley, and along with so many, cried with emotion to witness those participating weren’t held back by fear.”-Anonymous, Newton

‘By the grace of God and unknown people, two hands extended down to me and picked me up.’

“Our daughter, Meredith, was running the Boston Marathon for the first time. As she was expected to be at the finish line soon, my husband and I settled in behind a crowd on Exeter Street, facing Boylston to catch a glimpse... My husband and I got separated as more and more people were waiting in the same spot. We heard what we thought was a celebratory boom, as if from a shot into the air or a cannon. No one moved until seconds later, when the second boom went off. At that point everyone turned around and began running. In the process, I got knocked down, expecting to get trampled. By the grace of God and unknown people, two hands extended down to me and picked me up. As I began to cry, another samaritan put an arm around me and walked me up the street. At that point I was alone, separated from my husband and family. I tried calling my husband but phones were jammed. My phone rang soon after and I heard my daughter’s friend, Kate, tell me that Meredith was okay. She was running slower than expected because she was feeling ill and hadn’t made it to the finish line. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the runners had no idea about the bombs. Slowly, we were able to locate our family, minus Meredith who was stopped by emergency personnel. One of the hotels offered her a blanket and she and Kate walked down Mass Ave. We proceeded to walk to Draper Laboratory’s parking garage where I had parked. From there we started driving up Mass Ave and found Meredith and Kate close to MIT. I remember stopping my car in the middle of the street and running to embrace her and Kate.”-Deb D., Reading

‘I fell to my knees. I lost all the runner’s joy I had felt only a few minutes earlier.’

“I was in the shower at my place in Inman Square. I had finished the marathon under 3:30, so I BQed at Boston and was THRILLED! While showering, I heard my phone ring--ring--ring. I thought they were calls of congratulations. However, when the call came from my dad, a doctor in CA, the first thing he asked was, ‘Tim, are you all right? Do you have your legs?’ I was completely confused. I thought he had doubted my ability at running. But then my son called in, so I switched to his call. He was very upset and worried if I were bloody. I still could not figure it out. Finally, I turned on the television. The news was all about the bombs. I fell to my knees. I lost all the runner’s joy I had felt only a few minutes earlier.”-Timothy H, Inman Square

“That year we waited for a friend to run by before continuing down Boylston st. There were three of us left by that point and we all needed a bathroom. Everywhere had a line and cover though so we didn’t go in anywhere until we got to the Charlesmark Hotel. We had just finished using the bathroom and were nearly at the bar when the first bomb went off and we felt the ground shake. It sounded like a heavy truck going over a loose plate in the road. One of my friends thought maybe the scaffolding at the finish had fallen. My memory is a bit hazy but I know the bartender turned off the music immediately after the second bomb went off. I remember there was this white smoke that filled up the windows at the front and people were running by and then people started coming in from the street. We went to the back of the restaurant with most everyone else there. There was this older woman with a small white dog in her arms. And she was the one that told us it was a bomb. ‘It was a bomb. There’s blood and body parts everywhere.’ And then we evacuated out the back of the restaurant through the emergency exit and into the alley. I lived in the North End at the time and we obviously were not going to take the T since what if there were more bombs? It was jarring to walk home.”-Annette F., South End

“I was working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at the time, just down the street from the bombing, when we began to hear the hospital alerts of an emergency unfolding. Injured people were expected to begin arriving, the emergency department was secured by armed guards and readied for an influx of patients, the entrances to the hospital were closed and guarded. As we left the hospital that afternoon, Huntington Ave. was filled with solid lines of cars heading out of the city. In the following days and weeks, we saw many patients whose ears and hearing were damaged by the blasts.”-Anonymous, Dorchester

“I was coming back from a nice spring weekend down the cape with my wife, son, and mother-in-law, when a friend from Texas called and asked if we were responding to the bombings, I said what bombings and turned on the radio. Then my phone blew up, I’m a hazmat responder on a federal contract, had to mobilize into Boston as soon as I could as a contingency. Dropped off my mother-in-law and then my family, loaded my gear and drove into Boston. It was really sketchy that day, checking every bridge I drove under on the Turnpike to see if someone was up there waiting to throw a bomb down on me. When I got into Boston the normally chill federal guards at the facility had their long guns out and were not very chill at all. I remember cops and troopers and firetrucks tearing around the city, a lot of rumors going around, kind of scary.”-Paul C., Framingham

“I remember in the days after the attack, there was a manhunt for the two individuals and my wife and I were both working as nurses on an overnight shift in a Brighton hospital. The reverse 911 call went out to shelter in place and mom (who was babysitting our 3 children at the time) called us wondering what was going on. We told her we were unsure of when we would be allowed to leave the hospital as there was an active manhunt for the duo in the area. I will never forget that moment for as long as live.”-Scott L., West Roxbury

“I was in a meeting at work at Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library. We heard ambulance after ambulance after ambulance speed down Huntington Ave. What was going on? Someone said that a bomb went off at the marathon. A bomb? It didn’t even make any sense. I left work early, feeling afraid that another bomb might go off. I headed home. The next thing I remember is being in ‘shelter in place’ as the bombing suspect was at large. Helicopters flew overhead. It was a strange afternoon. Finally they captured him and we could leave our homes. It was a very strange and surreal couple of days.”-Adena C.

‘Our usual after race celebration was replaced by a feeling of dread and sadness for all who were injured or killed.’

“We got a call from our son in law, who had finished the race about 15 min before the explosions, saying that Lower Boylston Street was cordoned off. He was making his way to the Park St. red line and to pick him up at Harvard station. Our Daughter set off to get him, leaving her baby boy with us. We were still extremely worried for our son and his wife. In what seemed like hours our daughter returned with her husband but there was still no word from our son and his wife. Finally about 4:30PM they both arrived at the apartment much to everyone’s relief. Apparently with the green line shut down they had to walk almost 4 miles to get back to the apartment in Brookline. With everyone safe the reality of what happened was sinking in. Our usual after race celebration was replaced by a feeling of dread and sadness for all who were injured or killed. Over the next year our son, the competitive mid-distance 1000 meter racer, decided that he was going to train for the marathon. He qualified for and ran in the 2014 Boston Marathon at age 34.”-Kevin C., Cape Cod

“I have two strong memories from 2013. I was living in Cambridge at the time and ran the race that year. I had finished and made my way back home when a friend texted and said to turn on the tv. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. My first strong memory was making my way over the river to the Boylston/Hereford area a day or two after the race and being floored by the scene. The whole area was roped off and completely untouched. People’s handmade cheering signs, clothes, trash, everything was just strewn about. The second strong memory I have was how massive the city shutdown was during the manhunt the next weekend. They shut down the entire commuter rail and subway system! Boston and Cambridge were just total ghost towns. It was eerie but also oddly comforting to know every single person in the area was doing their part to enable the capture of the bombers.”-Brian M., Concord

“We were in Donegal, Ireland, for a family wedding and were doing some sightseeing a couple of days after the bombing. At Donegal Castle, I was paying the entrance fee. The attendant, hearing me speak, asked where I was from. When I said Boston, he said ‘Ah, God love ye, how well we know how that is’ and returned the entrance fee, adding ‘I can’t take money from ye.’”-Mara A., Kingston

“I was running in 2013 for Dana Farber. It was supposed to be my last marathon. I saw my step daughter on Comm. Ave right near the Lenox Hotel with her son in his stroller. I stopped to say ‘Hi’ and she told me she heard a loud bang and the race stopped. We were standing around for a minute or two and then fire trucks and ambulances started screaming up Comm. Ave the wrong way. She was smart enough to call my husband who was with our young daughter and a friend of mine coming back from Heartbreak Hill on the T. This was before the cell connection was clogged so she reached him and told him the race had stopped but we were ok. It was SO surreal. Then a friend who was waiting for me on Fairfield street texted me that a bomb went off - they were close enough to see the debris and smoke. Runners were starting to get angry and we were all confused. It had been about 10 mins since we had stopped and we decided to walk to my apartment in Back Bay. We had to take the long way because streets were blocked by police cars. People were wandering the streets aimlessly. It was even weirder in the days after the bombing because the streets were blocked off all week. My daughter was attending school on Exeter Street and her school was closed all week because we couldn’t get to it.”-Liz B., Back Bay

‘Everyone I knew was safe, but the tragedy really stuck with me.’

“I’m from New England, but in 2013 I was on my college campus in Maryland going about my day when a friend said, ‘Hey! Have you heard about what happened at the Boston Marathon?’ They proceeded to tell me, not knowing quite how popular the event is not only for runners, but also for spectators. My thoughts went immediately to my mom. I knew she wasn’t running that year, but she had run it a couple times for DFMC and there was a good possibility she was spectating. Fortunately, I was able to connect with my dad pretty quickly and find out that none of my family were there. I reached out to a few friends that were going to school in Boston, but I didn’t hear back for a few hours since there was so much cell activity in that area at the time. People mentioned that they hadn’t been able to get messages through any sooner. Everyone I knew was safe, but the tragedy really stuck with me. I went on to create a presentation focused on the Boston Marathon for a final project because I felt so strongly that my classmates should understand how important the Boston Marathon is.”-Kimberly N., Newton

Jenna Reyes can be reached at jenna.reyes@globe.com. Follow her @jennaelaney and Instagram @jennaelaney.