Several Alaskans were near the finish line of the Boston Marathon when two bombs exploded in the crowded finish area. No Alaskans are known to be among the three people who were killed and the more than 100 others who were injured. Identifications of those victims have not yet been released.
Forty-one Alaskans were registered to run the race today and many had family members there to cheer them on.
Anchorage resident Heather Aften finished the race about 15 minutes before the bombs exploded. She was just a few blocks away when she heard the two explosions.
“And right away I knew something was wrong it was the kind of sound where you knew it was big and I instantly knew something was wrong. I thought of 9-11,” Aften said.
Aften says it was a dream of hers to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which only allows runners with fast marathon times to enter. She says for 15 minutes after she finished, she felt elation. But everything changed the instant the first bomb went off.
“My trip down those 26 miles was just one long party and so many people put everything they had into it today. And it’s just so heartbreaking and I guess because of that, I’m just feeling anger and rage at the whole thing that that was tainted,” Aften said.
Kodiak resident Howard Valley, who is 64-years-old, finished his race roughly 40 minutes before the blasts and said he was walking away from the area when he heard the explosions.
“It wasn’t like a propane tank or anything that go off here in Kodiak sometimes, or anything else; it was quite obviously a large explosion of some type. But I didn’t know what it was until about maybe a half an hour later when I got inside a hotel and was watching the TV,” Valley said.
Valley has safely returned to the bed and breakfast he is staying at in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. He said it took him about four hours to get out of the city. He had to use alternate train and bus routes because transportation was shut down near the race course.
Juneau Doctor John Bursell also escaped injury in the Marathon.
After he finished the race, he says he and his wife Jamie had already gone back to their hotel room about five blocks away when she heard the explosions and arriving emergency responders.
“My wife Jamie was watching the race and at one point was real close to where the first explosion went off and at that point says it was crowded with people right at the finish line,” Bursell said.
Another Anchorage resident Hedy Eischeid, didn’t run the race herself. But she was waiting with a friend for her husband at the family meeting area when the explosions happened.
“And I kind of looked at my friend Jonathan and he looked at me and he said, ‘I hope that was thunder.’ and we looked at each other and we knew it wasn’t and we knew it wasn’t. And he said, ‘I don’t think that’s thunder Hedy.’ So we heard it. It was very, very loud. And you could feel it on the ground,” Hedy Eischeid said.
It took Eischeid about 10 minutes to reunite with her husband Ted, who lives in Wisconsin and is planning to relocate to Anchorage in the future. He was looking towards the finish when the explosions happened and he saw smoke. It was his second Boston Marathon and he says it’s a wonderful event:
“Thousands and thousands of Bostonians come out to watch it and you have runners from all around the world here and because Boston is a marathon you have to qualify for, there’s a lot of dreams here, just to be able to qualify for Boston and run it was a long time goal and dream of mine. It’s very emotional. So I’m sad for the marathon because this was 117th running and it puts a damper on really a wonderful tradition,” Ted Eischeid said.
Eischeid says despite the horror of today’s marathon, he would run the race again.
This story was reported with the help of Matt Miller, KTOO – Juneau and Briana Gibbs, KMXT – Kodiak