Getting her feet back on the ground

  • Published
  • By Mark Wyatt
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
It was a beautiful early spring day. Linda Ambard was having a wonderful time waving and high-fiving spectators while running the 26.2 mile Boston Marathon course.

"The Boston Marathon was my metaphor to life," said Linda Ambard, 66th Force Support Squadron Youth Center director. "I had conquered Heartbreak Hill, kind of like my life and I was getting my feet back on the ground making my way toward the finish line."

Ambard was invited to run by the Boston Athletic Association to honor her husband who was killed in Afghanistan two years earlier.

She had just turned on to Boylston Street when she heard what sounded like a cannon.

Soon after runners and spectators began rushing toward her as she approached the finish line after two bombs exploded 13 seconds apart.

"I had just crossed the 26 mile marker, all I had left was a little bit to the finish line," Ambard said.

The chaos totally paralyzed her. She didn't know if she was safe or what to do next.

"People were screaming and sprinting away from the finish line," Ambard said.

It felt out of control, that her life was being torn apart again. She stood helpless sobbing because terrorism had once again attempted to destroy her life.

"It brought my five children back to the worst day of their life," said Ambard. "Because following the two explosions, my children were not able to reach me for four hours."

She said that when her husband, and the children's father, U.S. Air Force Maj. Phil Ambard was killed April 27, 2011 it was the worst day of their life.

With her children spread out across the world, Ambard thought immediately of them.

Her oldest son, a pediatrician at Eielson Air Force Base, had looked online and saw that she had crossed the 26 mile marker. This meant that she was close to the explosions.

"For hours my son thought I was hurt," said Ambard.

Because of phone lines being jammed in Boston, Ambard was unable to reach any of her children until she was able to send a text to another son in Maryland.

"My daughter who is overseas, called me every ten minutes for four hours," Ambard said. "When she finally reached me, it took her 40 minutes to compose herself."

Another son living in Denver tried unsuccessfully throughout the afternoon to reach his mom.

Her youngest son, who is a cadet at the Air Force Academy, was removed from class and asked if his mom was ok.

"They came and got him out of class, which is exactly what they did when his dad was killed," said Ambard. "I was unaccounted for, so here's a boy who just lost his dad and was pulled out of class the exact same way thinking that something was wrong with his mom."

Strangely for Ambard it was running that was helping her through her husband's death.

"It bothers me that violence touched my life again because the way I have been finding my footing, the way that I was finding joy again in my life was through running," said Ambard. "Running allows me to fall into my faith and it makes me happy."

The Boston Marathon was the best way she could think to honor her husband's memory as the two year anniversary approached.

"I cannot let a terrorist and violence take this from me," Ambard said. "I've got to find a way to get back because otherwise they've won twice, not only have they taken my future, they've taken the one thing that I have found my footing with."

Ambard, who ran competitively in college, runs for entirely different reasons today.

"It's where I process everything, it's where I work through the good and the bad things in my life and where I make big decisions," Ambard said.

When her husband was killed, she struggled to find that strength to continue running.

A causality assistance officer at Dover Air Force Base gave her advice that really resonated with her.

"She told me you're not going to feel happy, but just get out there and run," Ambard said. "It set me on the right track to healing and for me, running is about healing."

Ambard said terrorists get a lot more than the people they assassinate, terrorism often maims the spirit and the heart and that's the one thing she will not let a terrorist get from her.

"I was running Boston because I run to remember, to honor the man that loved me well and who I loved well for 23 years," said Ambard. "If I cower in the corner and if I quit living, an assassin or terrorist gets two of us, not one of us."

She is determined to make that run again.

"So many people died at the hands of terrorism," continued Ambard. "This is the year we remember and stand up and say no more. We stand Boston Strong."

She is determined to finish the Boston Marathon, something she was so close to doing last month.

"I never finished, I need to cross that finish line because that's the only way I am going to have victory over the terrorist," said Ambard.