DANVERS — Leanne Scorzoni was with a friend near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street in April, at the trash barrel where the first of two pressure cooker bombs exploded, when her friend needed to find a bathroom.
Scorzoni, 32, grew up on Riverside Street in Danversport, and when her family would go to see the marathon, it was customary to stay put on Boylston Street until most of the runners had finished. It was that way at other sporting events, too.
“You get there early, and you stay until the bitter end,” Scorzoni said.
This time, however, Scorzoni and her friend left Boylston Street, and 15 minutes later, the first bomb went off. Many of those injured in the bombings were taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where Scorzoni works as an office manager.
The day has a lot of meaning for Scorzoni. As a recent convert to Islam, she has wrestled with how someone from her new faith could do such a thing. She also has wondered why she was not injured, while others she had been standing with were.
To try and turn some negative perceptions of Muslims around and do some good for children facing cancer, Scorzoni will run in the 2014 Boston Marathon as part of the Pediatric Hematology Oncology Center team at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Scorzoni has never run a marathon, but she played soccer all through high school and college and ran track at Bishop Fenwick.
“If you can give me the chance to raise the money, I will raise the money,” Scorzoni said she wrote when applying for a spot on the team, “but, this shouldn’t be the main focal point, being a Muslim-American, I want to show people that something positive has to come from this.”
“She is very enthusiastic about running the marathon,” said her mother, Mary Lynch, who now lives in western Maine. “It means a lot to her to run it for (children’s cancer research) and what went on in Boston.”
When the marathon bombings took place, Scorzoni and her friend, a resident of Jordan, were shopping at Banana Republic on Newbury Street. She was alerted by cellphone messages that something was going on, and they left the area.
The next day, she said agents from the Boston bureau of the FBI showed up at her work. They had seen her Facebook post about being at the finish line.
“They were very polite, but very thorough,” Scorzoni said. She had nothing to hide and the agents did not try and intimidate her, she said, but she was fearful for her friends from the Middle East. Her friend was also questioned by the FBI, she said.
“What those brothers (the Tsarnaevs) did, they are cowards, and losers, and anybody from any group or any religion that agrees with them, they are complicit. They were frustrated and angry and violent, and they chose to act out in a negative way,” Scorzoni said.
The bombings created an added tension for Scorzoni, who sometimes wears her hijab, or head scarf, in public. She does not intend to wear a head scarf when she runs the marathon — she doesn’t wear one when she runs.
Scorzoni, who now lives in Roxbury, said there was nothing in her upbringing that led her to switch religions. She came from a large Irish-American family that regularly attended Mass at St. Mary of the Annunciation on Conant Street. She attended Danvers schools and Bishop Fenwick, studied creative writing at the University of Maine at Farmington and spent time at The New School in New York City. She won the Salem News essay contest in 2000.
As she grew up, her mother taught her to question things, and she has always felt the tug of other cultures, along with a desire to travel. She even traveled to Jordan this fall. The sex scandals in the Catholic church led her to take a break from organized religion and made her question her beliefs.
Taught by her mother that her faith was “personal and private,” she said being a Muslim is only a part of her identity.
Otherwise, she leads the life of a typical American woman. She goes to the gym, has a regular job and tutors English as a Second Language.
“This year, it’s going to be about honoring the people who died,” Scorzoni said. “It’s about honoring the people who lost limbs and hearing and were in comas, and it’s going to be emotional on a lot of levels for people. And it’s bigger than myself. It’s letting go of your own ego.”
To learn more information about Scorzoni’s run, go the Crowdwise website, http://www.crowdrise.com/MGH2014BostonMarathon/fundraiser/leannescorzoni.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.