By Alexandra Smith
UPPER BURRELL, Pa.—With the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings approaching, 2013 participants throughout the country say they have emotional memories about the race, but don’t fear running in it again.
Two pressure cooker bombs exploded around 13 seconds and 210 yards apart during the 2013 Boston Marathon. The bombs exploded near the finish line on Boylston Street, killing three people and injuring over 250 others, according to an April 2013 article from bostonglobe.com.
Scott Dunlap, a 44-year-old technology entrepreneur from Woodside, Calif. said in an email interview that he was running the Boston Marathon for the ninth time in 2013, and was a few blocks away from the finish line when the first bomb exploded.
“I was having a beer with some new friends, and when the first one went off, we all cheered since we thought it was some sort of celebratory cannon,” Dunlap said. “When the second one went off, we all knew something wasn’t right. Then thousands of people started running and the fear was palpable.”
Dunlap said he thought the explosions were from a gas pipe, and that his first instinct was to run to the scene with his friends to try and help.
“When we saw the blood on the ground and heard what eyewitnesses said, it was clearly a terrorist act,” Dunlap said. “At that point I just wanted to get out of there and touch base with family.”
James Whipple, a 36-year-old salesman from Norwalk, Conn., said in an email interview that he ran the Boston Marathon for the first time in 2013, and that he was with his family when the bombs exploded.
“I was a few blocks away from the finish line at a restaurant with my wife, parents, and two young daughters ages seven and four at the time,” Whipple said. “After we placed our orders, we heard an announcement on the PA system which stated to remain inside since there was criminal activity outside.”
Whipple said that when he found out the second bomb had exploded, he began to feel very uneasy because his family was so close to the finish line.
“My emotions at this time were just to stay calm and not alarm our kids, Whipple said. “Thankfully we were in a back room in the restaurant which had no television, so my daughters had no idea what was going on.”
Dunlap and Whipple both noted that people around them were fearful. Dunlap described the scene around him in two words: panic and fear. Whipple said that he was very concerned about getting his family out of danger, and that others in the restaurant were anxious as well.
“It was very quiet in the back room where we were,” Whipple said. “The other people at the other two tables stayed pretty quiet as I assumed they didn’t want to alarm our kids. Everyone just kept trying to connect to the outside world on our phones, but the service was shut off for about 30 to 45 minutes after the bombs went off.”
Jamie Rose, a 19-year-old student who was studying at Simmons College in Boston, said in an email interview that she was a volunteer at the 2013 Boston Marathon and provided cups of water to the runners at mile 14 with her rugby team. Rose said that she had just arrived at her dorm after volunteering when she found out about the bombings, and that her teammates were upset when they learned what happened.
“When my teammates and I got dropped off to walk to our dorms, everyone was just really quiet and in shock,” Rose said. “People were hugging each other and crying and calling their families. As we were trying to absorb all this information, three girls I knew came into the dorm lounge hysterical. They had been at the finish line when the bombs went off. I had never seen anyone as traumatized as they were at that moment.”
Rose said the event was hard for her to comprehend, and that the atmosphere of Boston changed dramatically over the next few days.
“Everything seemed sort of surreal,” she said. “It was hard to comprehend. School was cancelled for a couple days; in fact, all of Boston was shut down as they searched for suspects. That was so creepy—a normally bustling city was completely silent and empty. Nobody went outside.”
In the aftermath of the bombings, Dunlap said he had a hard time feeling normal again.
“I didn’t sleep for days after the bombing, likely some mild post-traumatic stress disorder,” Dunlap said. It wasn’t until I raced again the following week that my head cleared. In that sense, the running community was very helpful in the healing.”
Rose said that she tried to avoid getting trapped in the panic around her, and that she focused on her normal routine of schoolwork and casual conversations not revolving around the marathon to cope.
Whipple said that the 2013 Boston marathon changed his life forever.
“My family and I were so close to tragedy,” Whipple said. “What was supposed to be a day to celebrate all the hard work and time that us runners put into our training turned into so much more. I will never look at that medal without having a ton of different emotions go through me.”
Each person interviewed said that they would participate in the Boston Marathon again. Dunlap, Whipple, and Whipple’s wife, Shannon will be running the marathon this year on April 21.
Shannon said in an email interview that that she does not fear any violence at the race this year, and that she feels the bombings brought the running community together more than ever.
“I think Boston is a big reason why runners now pull together more even more for a cause,” she said. “Runners come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and speed, but there is one constant—our love of funning. I’d like to think, in the end, love always wins!”