When two bomb blasts shattered the Boston Marathon on Monday, Gary and D.J. Clancy ran away from the finish line in opposite directions. Gary was in the 26th mile of the race, about to turn onto the finishing stretch of Boylston Street, when he heard two booms. “I first thought maybe a crane collapsed,” he said. “Then the police ran out on the road and stopped us. After 20 minutes or so, they told us to evacuate the course. The race was over. It wasn’t my first Boston [Marathon], so it wasn’t the end of the world for me. But with only a half mile to go, others really wanted to finish.”
D.J., his wife, was in a family reunion area beyond the finish line. “I heard the explosions and saw smoke,” she said. “I knew it was a bomb. I didn’t know how close Gary was. Ambulances were screaming down the street. We all took off. They said there might be another bomb, and we started to run.” The Santa Barbara couple’s separation, fortunately, did not last long. They both were able to find their way back to their hotel, the Back Bay Hilton, which was out of the evacuation zone.
As they got caught up with the news, the enormity of the occasion began to sink in—the three deaths, the scores of ghastly injuries. Gary was one of two dozen Santa Barbara area runners in the marathon, many with families. “We started texting each other,” said Gary, at 68 years old the oldest of the contingent. “‘You OK? You OK?’” All reported they were safe and sound—from Curly Guillen, who finished in two hours, 35 minutes, to four-hour runner John Voorhis.
Gary had run the Boston Marathon five times previously, and he does not intend Monday’s attempt to be his last. The terrorism only strengthened his feelings toward the city that has celebrated running for more than a century on Patriots’ Day, a state holiday. “We love Boston,” he said. “The city is really taking this personally. It’s one of the biggest days of the year. You can’t stop this marathon from continuing.” D.J. said, “I commend Boston. The people have been wonderful. The police and emergency workers have done everything they can to make us secure.”
Katie Vining, another Santa Barbara runner who finished the marathon in 3:28 – about a half hour before the explosions – offered this account:
“I had finished the race in a fair amount of pain and was considering my options. I thought I would either go to the med tent for a massage and some hydration or I would attempt a walk back to the hotel for a hot bath. I was so cold I thought I would go for the bath. My hotel wasn’t too far from the finish. When I got back to my room and my phone I had messages of congratulations followed my messages asking me if I was OK. I also had a message from my husband who was with my 7-month-old son. It said: ‘Great race. You rock. My phone is going to die. We are on our way to you.’ I turned on the TV. I saw the bombs. I was in shock and for a moment my world went black. Where were they? Were they on their way to me at the finish? Are they OK? Alive? It was terrifying. I finally got through to them through a friend. I felt relieved, followed by panic for the safety of all of my friends who were running.
“Today I am in shock and exhausted. Exhausted by my effort, for which I felt proud, and exhausted by my grief for those people who were injured and those three people who lost their lives. The Boston Marathon is such a special event. I feel honored to have been a participant. I am so sad about these events.”