Local runner at Boston Marathon recounts tragedy
Date posted: April 16, 2013
Editor’s note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.
SHERIDAN — In addition to strength and conditioning training, many long-distance runners will tell you that mental toughness is key to completing a race. No amount of training could have prepared runners like Sheridan’s Del Acker for what happened Monday.
Two bombs blew up seconds apart at the finish line of one of the world’s most storied races, leaving the streets spattered with blood and glass, three dead, more than 140 wounded and gaping questions of who chose to attack at the Boston Marathon and why.
“Boston is a resilient city but it is too early to tell,” Acker said of the atmosphere in Boston Monday night. Acker communicated with The Press via email as cell phones were not working in Boston Monday night.
Acker ran his 12th consecutive Boston Marathon Monday, finishing in three hours and 40 minutes — not his best time, but faster than last year when temperatures hit 90 degrees.
Acker said he finished about 40 minutes before the bombs exploded. His wife, Peggy, always cheers from the sidelines during the race, but had already headed to the family meeting area to catch up with Acker after the race.
“We first heard the emergency vehicles as we were leaving the area and didn’t know what had happened until we dashed into a downtown hotel to watch first news reports on local television,” Acker said.
He added that due to the location of the blasts on Boylston Street, which is the last quarter mile of the 26.2 mile race, spectators likely would have been stacked four to five people deep in front of the explosions.
“They took the brunt of the terrible attack,” Acker said.
Federal investigators said no one had claimed responsibility for the bombings on one of the city’s most famous civic holidays, Patriots Day. But the blasts among the throngs of spectators raised fears of a terrorist attack.
“My reaction to the attack… ANGER for a cruel and senseless attack that killed and injured innocent people taking part in an historic athletic event on this New England holiday… Patriots Day,” Acker said.
President Barack Obama was careful not to use the words “terror” or “terrorism” as he spoke at the White House Monday after the deadly bombings, but an administration official said the bombings were being treated as an act of terrorism.
“We will find out who did this. We’ll find out why they did this,” the president said. “Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups, will feel the full weight of justice.”
The FBI took charge of the investigation into the bombings, serving a warrant late Monday on a home in suburban Boston and appealing for any video, audio and still images taken by marathon spectators.
Acker said several events were canceled following the blasts — people were asked to stay away from central Boston and the entire area around the explosions is off limits. The Boston Bruins hockey game that day was also canceled, he said.
Acker said he and his wife are staying in Cambridge and weren’t planning to leave town until tomorrow.
Despite the attacks, Acker said he plans to run the Boston Marathon next year, and as many years as he can qualify for the event.
The Ackers have lived in Sheridan for 30 years. He is an architect with TSP and his wife is a retired elementary school teacher with Sheridan County School District 2.
The fiery explosions took place about 10 seconds and about 100 yards apart, knocking spectators and at least one runner off their feet, shattering windows and sending dense plumes of smoke rising over the street and through the fluttering national flags lining the route.
Blood stained the pavement, and huge shards were missing from window panes as high as three stories. Victims suffered broken bones, shrapnel wounds and ruptured eardrums.
Roupen Bastajian, a state trooper from Smithfield, R.I., had just finished the race when he heard the explosions.
“I started running toward the blast. And there were people all over the floor,” he said. “We started grabbing tourniquets and started tying legs. A lot of people amputated. … At least 25 to 30 people have at least one leg missing, or an ankle missing, or two legs missing.”
At Massachusetts General Hospital, Alasdair Conn, chief of emergency services, said: “This is something I’ve never seen in my 25 years here … this amount of carnage in the civilian population. This is what we expect from war.”
As many as two unexploded bombs were found near the end of the 26.2-mile course as part of what appeared to be a well-coordinated attack, but they were safely disarmed, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation.
WBZ-TV reported late Monday that law enforcement officers were searching an apartment in the Boston suburb of Revere. Massachusetts State Police confirmed that a search warrant related to the investigation into the explosions was served Monday night in Revere, but provided no further details.
Some investigators were seen leaving the Revere house early Tuesday carrying brown paper bags, plastic trash bags and a duffel bag.
Police said three people were killed. An 8-year-old boy was among the dead, according to a person who talked to a friend of the family and spoke on condition of anonymity. The person said the boy’s mother and sister were also injured as they waited for his father to finish the race.
Hospitals reported at least 144 people injured, at least 17 of them critically. At least eight children were being treated at hospitals.
Tim Davey of Richmond, Va., was with his wife, Lisa, and children near a medical tent that had been set up to care for fatigued runners when the injured began arriving. “They just started bringing people in with no limbs,” he said.
“Most everybody was conscious,” Lisa Davey said. “They were very dazed.”
The Boston Marathon is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious races and about 23,000 runners participated. The race honored the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting with a special mile marker in Monday’s race.
Boston Athletic Association president Joanne Flaminio previously said there was “special significance” to the fact that the race is 26.2 miles long and 26 people died at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
One of the city’s biggest annual events, the race winds up near Copley Square, not far from the landmark Prudential Center and the Boston Public Library. It is held on Patriots Day, which commemorates the first battles of the American Revolution, at Concord and Lexington in 1775.
With scant official information to guide them, members of Congress said there was little or no doubt it was an act of terrorism.
“We just don’t know whether it’s foreign or domestic,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
A few miles away from the finish line and around the same time, a fire broke out at the John F. Kennedy Library. The police commissioner said that it may have been caused by an incendiary device but it was not clear whether it was related.
The bombings occurred about four hours into the race and two hours after the men’s winner crossed the finish line. By that point, more than 17,000 of the athletes had finished the marathon, but thousands more were still running.
The attack may have been timed for maximum carnage: The four-hour mark is typically a crowded time near the finish line because of the slow-but-steady recreational runners completing the race and because of all the friends and relatives clustered around to cheer them on.