Questions remain unanswered. Many of the injured are beginning to recover from terrible wounds, but our hearts still grieve.
Last Monday, a senseless bombing occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. To runners, the Boston Marathon is the celebration of athleticism. There were 86 Oklahomans who participated in the 117th race, but it’s a race for more than just Americans. Kyle Keffer, an Oklahoman, said he realized in his opening corral, there were five people from France, two from Germany, one from Denmark and one from Mexico.
“You gotta do Boston,” Keffer told The Oklahoman. “It’s the whole 26 miles. There’s overwhelming support, a beauty of warmth and openness of all the people.”
Keffer is just one of the 86 Oklahoman runners. Here are a handful of their accounts:
Vince Blockers: Jenks
The only items Vince Blocker carried with him on Monday were two packets of cherry-lime Gu to eat at the eighth and 16th mile. When he runs, he said his mind reaches a state where it’s occupied but not really thinking. He’s in a rhythm of running but he got knocked out of his occupied state about a half-mile before Wellesley College, a private women’s college located at Mile 14.
This part of the marathon is called the Screech Tunnel.
“It’s like the whole school is out there screaming,” Blocker said. “These girls are holding up signs saying, ‘I’m from Oklahoma’ or ‘I’m from Massachusetts. Kiss me.’ Lots of people stopped and kiss them.
“I was feeling good at that point so I didn’t want to slow down. One of my regrets was that I didn’t stop and kiss one of them.”
However, Blocker didn’t feel great the whole time. By the end of the race, he said he felt pale and nauseous so he went to one of the race medical tents.
He knew the sound of the blast was not from a cannon like the race medical volunteer attending to him thought.
Blocker sat in a wheelchair in the medical tent as nausea overcame him, wondering what caused the noise.
Within minutes, he noticed a crowd gathered around a TV as the screen flashed views of downtown Boston.
He heard the word “explosions.” Then a race volunteer came and asked those in the tent who were physically able to get up and move on to please do so. They were going to need the room.
Blocker raised from the wheelchair and exited the tent.
He said although he was so close to the finish line, he never saw anyone hurt from the blasts.
Vic Morgan: Tulsa
In an hour, Vic Morgan crossed the finish line, showered and waited with his wife for the 3 p.m. shuttle from the Mandarin hotel, located off Bolyston Street, to take him to the airport.
From his location at the hotel, he said he was about 400 yards from the finish of the Boston Marathon. When the loud explosions of the first and second bombs went off, a rush of runners and spectators crowded into the lobby of the Mandarin.
“You could smell the burning,” Morgan said, one he described as less like a cookout and more “acrid”.
Morgan at first thought it was construction, but his wife pulled him behind the reception desk.
The hotel reacted quickly. It went on lockdown. The Morgans, though, were rushed through a basement and carried their luggage through the Prudential Center, Morgan said, in order to find a taxi that would take them to the airport.
Morgan told The Oklahoman last Monday was his third Boston Marathon.
“It’s a race where everyone works hard to get there,” he said. “The city embraces it. It’s very sad. We’re very sorry for the victims and the city of Boston and what it will mean for the Boston Marathon.
“This is just another thing to take away from us, but we can’t let it happen.”
Jason Collins: Newkirk
Jason Collins used his finish time from the 2012 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon to qualify for this year’s Boston Marathon.
A physical education teacher and girl’s basketball coach at Newkirk, Collins completed 12 marathons and three Boston Marathons in a row, including his finish last Monday.
He went into the marathon store, where the explosions went off by, every day when he was in Boston.
“In my mind now, I’ve wondered, ‘What if I would have been looking at shoes and the explosions happened,” Collins said.
But he wasn’t anywhere near Bolyston Street when the tragedy occurred.
He was on the airport shuttle to catch a flight back to Oklahoma so he could be back at school on Tuesday when the shuttle driver asked him if he ran earlier that day.
That’s when he learned of the bombings.
The next morning, he walked into school in a blue and gold race jacket he bought at the race expo, like he has done the previous two years.
“It’s kind of like my bragging rights,” he said. “I don’t wear my medal.”
But this year, it meant even more to him.
David Wray: Oklahoma City
Almost an hour passed since he crossed the finish line and David Wray and fellow Landrunners companion Ryan Siler were hoping to do a cool down in the hotel pool.
Wray heard the first bomb go off from his room on the 28th floor of the Westin hotel located around the block from the finish line. He ran to the window and saw the second explode.
“Being up 28 floors, you can see several streets,” Wray told The Oklahoman. “People were running every way as fast as they could.”
Like Phillips and Tucker, Wray had flashbacks to 18 years ago. He worked at the Classen Circle Building then and thought a construction truck had backed into the building that day. His office faced downtown and he soon saw the big explosion, just like he saw on Monday in Boston.
Wray’s voice cracked as he spoke: “Unfortunately, this is my second time to have first-hand experience with stupidity.”
Many of the Oklahoman runners that ran last Monday expressed the same remarks about the city in response to tragedy. They shined. Restaurants opened their doors and invited you in off the street to be able to watch the news and stay safe. Police officers constantly asked if you needed directions, if you needed anything. When the bombers ran away, the police and volunteers rushed in. Countless stories have been told of spectators who were doctors or EMS trained in medical emergency rushing to aid.
The runners who ran Boston before remarked that these kind of people shined through during every marathon, but especially on Monday.
They were strong. Boston strong.