After the bombs went off, the family meet-up area at the Boston Marathon fell eerily quiet. “The place was packed, and it just went silent,” said Caroline Bauer, a member of Howard County Striders, a local running club that had about 20 people running in the marathon Monday, April 15.
Bauer’s group of six, which includes four runners, returned to Howard County Wednesday after a few days in Boston — a trip to participate in one of the most storied marathons in the world, and a trip that took a tragic turn as two bombs went off in quick succession near the finish line about four hours after the race began.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” Bauer said. “We didn’t see smoke or a mass of people or hear screaming or sirens, but people started moving out of the meeting area. One of our guys (at the finish line waiting for his girlfriend, who had not yet finished the race) called us and said, ‘There’s smoke. We have to get out of here.’”
The small group moved out of the waiting area to a condo four blocks from the finish line where they were staying. Bauer said she noticed a shift in the mood.
“First, people were just going about their business, then everyone started to say to each other, ‘We should leave.’ Then, we started seeing people crying,” she said.
Within five minutes of walking, Donnie Chapman’s wife saw on her Twitter feed the words the runners had been afraid to use: bombs, explosions.
“We thought maybe it was an accident,” said Chapman, 51, vice-president of the Striders. “You think of the acts of violent individuals, and you don’t think of a marathon being the target. You hear all the time to be careful and aware during sporting events, but this is different — you never imagine something so terrible happening during something so special as the marathon.”
When the runners made it back to their condo, they turned on the news.
“We were in complete shock,” said Bauer, 29, of Columbia. “To think we were that close, and we didn’t really know what was occurring ... it almost seemed that it didn’t happen. We didn’t see anything. I’m thankful I didn’t see anything.”
Everyone in Bauer’s and Chapman’s group, and all of the striders (more than 20 made the trip to Boston), are safe and accounted for.
The Boston Marathon, now in its 117 year, draws a crowd of a 500,000 spectators. Qualifying and running in marathon is widely regarded as one of the greatest honors in the running community.
“It’s so special — the history, the tradition, everything,” said Chapman, of Clarksville. “And the crowd support is overwhelming. You’re just stunned by it. The crowd is so encouraging, so loud, it’s almost impossible to comprehend. It’s devastating to think that this innocence has been taken. Your sorrow turns into anger.”