JP runners, spectators tell of bomb horror

April 16, 2013
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By John Ruch, Rebeca Oliveira and Peter Shanley/Gazette Staff

Local runners and spectators of yesterday’s Boston Marathon have begun reporting in with tales of shock and horror from its bombing. So far, there are no reports of anyone local being injured.

Harry Smith, the president of the JP Regan Youth League, ran the Marathon to raise funds for that youth baseball program. In an email last night, Smith said his wife and daughter were supposed to be awaiting him at the finish line, where a bomb went off, but decided to stop for ice cream first and thus avoided the attack. Smith himself was about a half-mile from the finish line.

“It was a scary and tragic end to one of Boston’s most joyful events,” Smith wrote. “My mind is filled with ‘what if’ scenarios and also with sadness at the people who were killed or injured while doing nothing more than watching the end of a road race.”

Smith said all of his friends who also ran or volunteered at the race are OK.

“My disappointment at not being able to finish the race pales in comparison to my gratitude that my family and friends are safe and my sadness about this tragedy that will forever change the Marathon and our city,” Smith wrote. “I hope everyone hugs their loved ones tonight.”

City Councilor Mike Ross, who represents part of Hyde Square and is a mayoral candidate, said in a email last night that he was watching the race on Boylston Street when the bombs went off along that street.

“When the first of two explosions went off, I, like so many Bostonians, was along Boylston Street cheering on runners as they crossed the finish line on what is normally one of Boston’s most celebrated days of the year,” Ross wrote. “Thankfully, I am safe, but so many of our friends and neighbors are not. My heart is with the victims and the families of this tragic event. We are grateful to our City’s first responders and the everyday citizens who acted quickly and bravely to help.”
JP resident John Mannix said in an email to the Gazette that he was standing about 1,000 feet from the site of the first explosion.
“The fireball and noise were the worst I’ve ever experienced,” Mannix wrote. “Everyone near me was stunned and then many ran away. I stood by to assist but was not needed.”
“It was so sad to see the victims, many in shock and missing limbs,” Mannix wrote. “God bless all affected and Godspeed to all. Pray for them.”
Susan Naimark, a JP resident and author of the well-known book “The Education of a White Parent,” was part of a team of charity runners. She was a mile from the finish line when the bombs went off, but her husband John Rowse was in the area, “close enough to see it and hear it and feel it,” she told the Gazette. He was uninjured.
Naimark said that, like many runners, her initial reaction to the race being halted amid rumors of explosions was personal: “I ran 25 of 26 miles and I can’t finish?” But later, she said, she is among the many thinking of how timing made things different.
“I would have come in [to the finish line] right at the time of the bomb blast except I had trouble with my ankle,” she said.
Betsy Cowan, executive director of Egleston Square Main Street, said in an email to supporters that she had been at the finish line earlier in the day and heard about the bombing after returning to Egleston Square.
“As far as we know, Egleston community members are all safe and accounted for, including our local police officers, many of whom were working the Boston Marathon police detail,” Cowan wrote.
Frederick G.S. Clow, a photographer who often covers events for the Gazette, intended to be at the finish line but made a last-minute decision to photograph the runners in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner instead. After being there just a few minutes, Clow said, “The guy who owns the hardware store came running out and said, ‘They bombed the finish line.'” Clow said the news was hard to believe, but shortly afterward, “Sure enough, people were coming down the street crying.”

Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital in JP was in a “lockdown” yesterday but is open as normal today, according to spokesperson David Goldberg. He said some Faulkner employees ran in the marathon for various charities and there were no reports of any of them being injured, but he had not spoken to everyone yet.

Community Servings, a JP nonprofit that delivers meals to seriously ill people, did not have a team running in the marathon this year, but did have several longtime volunteers who ran to support other charities, according to Community Servings development and communications vice president Tim Leahy, who said those runners are all OK. Leahy noted that because the bombings happened late in the race, they were more likely to affect the amateur runners who support charities.

Everyone on a team of runners supporting the Franklin Park Coalition and their families are “safe in body, if not in spirit,” Executive Director Christine Poff said in an email today.

A runner supporting the JP-based Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) was in the race at the time of the blast but was not injured, according to an MSPCA spokesperson.