Associated Press, Published April 21 2013
Official end of Boston Marathon yields stories of heroism, perseverance
Just ahead of her was a pediatric nurse running her first marathon as a tribute to a teenage liver transplant patient. Ten years earlier, Courtney Fratto had attended her first Boston Marathon and told a friend that one day she would run in the race.
This was her day.
On a gorgeous spring afternoon made for running, they headed for the finish line that was their goal.
And at 2:50 p.m. EDT, hell was unleashed on the most prestigious marathon in the world.
The first explosion knocked a 78-year-old man who was running to the ground. The ground shook, smoke filled the air and the screaming began.
Erik Savage tried to make sense out of something that didn’t make any sense. The blast had knocked him back, into a semi crouch. His ears ringing, he stood up and instinctively walked toward the chaos, trying to see if there was anyone he could help.
He saw a man and a woman emerge from the smoke. The man’s pants had been torn off by the force of the blast.
“My first instinct was, ‘Strange. Why is that man not wearing any pants?’” Savage said. “Then I had a quick moment of clarity, which was there was something very wrong, and my wife and my
8-year-old and my 4-year-old were 25 yards up the road.”
They were caught in no man’s land, eager to finish but even more eager to get out of harm’s way. Exhausted, mentally numb and totally spent, they now had to make what could be life-and-death decisions and deal with shock, too. Their first thoughts were to try somehow to get to safety, but they also had husbands, wives and children in the crowd near the bomb site with no way of knowing if they were OK.
A total of 23,336 runners started the Boston Marathon, with 17,580 finishing. The Associated Press analyzed images and data, including the finishing times recorded by chips on competitors’ bibs, over the past several days to pinpoint some of the runners who were in the finish line area when the bombs went off.
These are some of their stories:
Army Sgt. Lucas Carr had heard the all-too-familiar sounds before.
He arrived at the finish at 2:48 p.m., and was standing with his girlfriend about 50 yards away when the bombs went off.
“I knew what it was, knew what the repercussions were,” he said.
He told his girlfriend to run west, back onto the race course, because he knew everyone else was running the other way. The second bomb, he suspected, was placed where it was because it was along the most obvious escape route for those trying to flee the first.
A few seconds later, he was in the melee – an Army Ranger back in the middle of the blood and casualties he thought he’d left behind for good when he returned from the Middle East. Pictures of the 33-year-old helping the wounded have circulated widely in the wake of the bombings.
Another picture, texted to The Associated Press, showed his bloodstained running shoes. “This is not how a marathon is supposed to end. Running shoes drenched in blood!” was the message he sent along with the text.
“I saw things that brought back experiences overseas that I would never want to have anyone witness here,” Carr said in an earlier AP interview. “It was an all-too-familiar smell that I can’t get out of my body. Tourniquets, tourniquets and more tourniquets I put on people that day. People with limbs missing. You don’t want to see that.”
Courtney Fratto wishes she could have reacted like Lucas Carr. She wishes she had made a different decision.
The 31-year-old mother of two is a nurse, the coordinator of intestinal transplants in the Pediatric Transplant Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.
When the bomb went off just after she crossed the finish line, though, she ran for safety instead of to the injured.
“I could see there was mass casualties,’” she said. “I have this very horrible guilt that I didn’t run and help them.”
Fratto had just run 26.2 miles and wasn’t thinking clearly. People around her were screaming at others to run and get out in case there was another bomb. Her husband and two young children were in the crowd somewhere near the explosion, and she wouldn’t know they were safe for another hour.
Fratto, who lives in Watertown, Mass., had never run more than 7 miles in a race before. This was her first marathon, and she was doing it in tribute to a teenage liver transplant patient who asked her if he would ever be healthy enough to run a marathon himself.
Her moment of triumph was fleeting, lasting only a few seconds. Her conscience will bother her a lot longer.
“I feel terrible that I didn’t go and help,” she said. “I’m, like, haunted by it.”
The heat from the first blast hit Cory Maxfield as she ran the last 75 yards to the finish line.
She felt the impact in her chest, and it seemed like the ground was moving under her feet.
A few seconds earlier, the only thing going through Maxfield’s mind was getting to the finish. Her iPod was on shuffle, but the song it picked was perfect. It was from Fictionist, her son’s rock ‘n’ roll band, and it was just what she needed to make it over the line.
“I was excited about it because it has a lot of power and energy,” the Utah musician said. “I’m so glad it came on when I needed a boost.”
Maxfield kept heading toward the finish only to be stopped by a security official trying to get her out of harm’s way. Around her it was chaos, with police drawing weapons, volunteers running the other way.
The second bomb went off behind her, and by then she was starting to figure out what was going on.
“For lack of a better plan, I just took off and ran for my life and crossed the finish line,” she said. “I guess that’s not my finest moment, but my inclination was to get out of there. I was frightened.”
The New Englander
Running toward the finish line, Erik Savage turned and ducked when he heard the second explosion. It left his ears ringing. When he stood up, he instinctively walked toward the chaos, trying to see if there was anyone he could help.
That’s when he saw the man whose pants had been blown off, and thoughts quickly turned to his own family.
What ensued was what Savage called the “longest 30 minutes of my life. “ He got repeated failed-call messages on his iPhone, which was nearly drained of battery because he had used it to listen to music during his four-hour run.
Finally, Savage moved toward a Starbucks on the corner of Berkeley and Boylston. His phone rang. His wife and kids were safe, scooped up by his brother-in-law and taken down an alley adjacent to the Lord and Taylor department store.
Savage grew up in Worcester, Mass., about 45 minutes from Boston, and the meaning of the marathon, the Red Sox game and all the other celebrations associated with Patriots’ Day have special meaning to him.
“If you grew up next door, in Connecticut, you don’t get it,” he said. “If you grow up near Boston, you really do.”
He’s planning to run in the New York Marathon later this year and, if he can qualify for Boston next year, he’ll be there, too.
“If I don’t run I lose the battle,” Savage said.
The Boston Marathon was also the 50th marathon for Jerry Dubner.
He heard the first explosion and saw the smoke just as he crossed the 26-mile mark.
A few seconds later, he heard and felt the second blast.
A seasoned veteran of the long-distance-running game, Dubner knew his limits when he crossed the finish at 2:51 p.m.
“I looked to my left, saw bodies on the ground and blood and realized I was in no position to help out, no condition to help out,” Dubner said.
Sean Haggerty was the last official finisher at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
It wasn’t because he was the slowest.
The New Hampshire state police sergeant stopped before the finish line to help spectators who were wounded in the bombings. When he finally crossed, at 2:57 p.m. Monday, he was pushing an injured woman to the medical tent in a wheelchair. He did not know he was the last one to record a time until he was told by a reporter three days later.
“I consider myself not completing the race. I didn’t run to the finish line. I ran to offer assistance to those that needed it,” said Haggerty, who reluctantly agreed to be interviewed this week.
Haggerty seemed reluctant to talk to a reporter, and said several times during the interview, “I did what hundreds of other people did that day.”
He borrowed someone’s belt and tied it around a woman’s leg to help stop the bleeding. He said he has a way to get in touch with the injured woman, when the time is right.
“The focus should be on those people whose lives will be changed forever,” he said. “I’ll always remember and think about the people that lost their lives. I’ll always remember and think about the people that go on with their lives; it will be a bigger challenge for them.