Kansans at Boston Marathon: 'Just disgusting'
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Try as she might, Stephanie Cline will never, ever forget her first Boston Marathon. And for all the wrong reasons.
"There were a couple of people that thought that maybe this was supposed to happen," Cline, who hails from Wichita, Kan., said from downtown Boston when reached by FOX Sports Kansas City, roughly a half-mile from where explosions had rocked the 2013 Boston Marathon. "Immediately, we realized it was something bad."
Bad? Bad doesn’t even do it justice.
At approximately 1:50 p.m. central time, two explosions went off near the finish line of the marathon, at a congested Copley Square. As of 8 p.m. central time, reports indicated at least three confirmed fatalities, including an 8-year-old boy, and at least 130 others injured.
"Just disgusting," Cline said.
According to the Boston Athletic Association’s web site, the race featured 139 runners from Kansas and 207 from Missouri. Race officials indicated that 17,600 or the more than 23,000 runners in the field — or about three-quarters — had completed the race before the first of the explosions took place.
Cline, 35, was one of four Kansan racers who work at GoRun, a runner’s specialty store with two Wichita locations. An hour-and-a-half after the explosion, Cline and her friends had counted "at least 15 ambulances going back and forth or into the area." She was struggling to get a cellular phone signal to call out of downtown Boston as late Monday afternoon, but was able to update her status on Facebook to tell friends and family that she was all right.
"Our last runner that had come in maybe 10-15 minutes right before the explosions," Cline said. "This whole thing has just ruined any experience."
And to think: The day had started out so perfectly, race-wise. Temperatures in the mid-50s, slightly overcast. Perfect running weather.
"After (the race) happened and everything, it was a wonderful experience," said Trevor Darmstetter of Wichita, one of Cline’s co-workers. "But then all this kind of happens, and I don’t really know what to think about it there."
Like Cline, Darmstetter was running at the prestigious race for the first time, and like Cline, he’d qualified at a Prairie Fire Marathon in Wichita.
Darmstetter finished approximately 45 minutes before the explosions went off. He was with his wife, Deana, and his grandmother, roughly two blocks away in the family meeting area, when they first heard the blasts.
"It sounded kind of like someone had a large cap gun or something," the 21-year-old Wichita native said.
"We thought it may have been scaffolding collapsing, or like a cherry picker falling or something. It really kind of took a while for anybody to really kind of realize what happened."
For family and friends of race participants, confusion often gave way to mild panic. Betsey Goering of Wichita was with her husband, Jonathon, who’d completed the course earlier in the afternoon, at a nearby hotel and didn’t hear the explosions, initially. But it didn’t take long to realize what had happened — and to realize that Jonathon’s parents were also near Copley Square at that time, shopping for post-race souvenirs.
"And we’d had a terrible time getting a hold of them," Betsey recalled, "because no calls would go through, and we were just freaking out, because we knew exactly where they were headed."
Fortunately, Richard Goering, Betsey’s father-in-law, was about five blocks away when the bombs went off, "and couldn’t figure out what in the world was going on," he said.
"Next thing we knew, there were guys on golf carts going through marathon runners, screaming at them to get out of the way, followed by ambulances and fire trucks. And we were told to clear the area, and it (was) just a mass exodus, so many people. It’s just a very frightening situation."
One that could’ve been worse.
"The area around the finish line was so packed that you couldn’t walk down there if you wanted to," Darmstetter said. "I mean, dozens and dozens of people all just pushed into the area and just cheering for the runners."
Both Darmstetter and the Goerings had praise for downtown Boston officials, hoteliers and restaurateurs — many of whom had to accommodate thousands of racers, and their families, left with no place to go after the city was put on lockdown.
"The first thing I thought about, and my wife actually brought it up, (was) in comparison to the Munich Olympics," said Darmstetter, referring to the '72 Summer Games marred by the death of 11 Israeli Olympians. "The kind of tragedy that went on there."
Now those sporting events are forever joined, linked four decades apart by the specter of terrorism.
Like the lady said: Disgusting.
"First time in Boston," Cline sighed. "And probably my last."
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com