Albert Lea runners say friends in Boston are safe

Published 4:25pm Monday, April 15, 2013

A colleague and friend of Albert Lea woman Amy Wasson crossed the finish line Monday at the Boston Marathon after running for 3 hours and 44 minutes. The explosion happened when the race clock was at 4 hours and 9 minutes.

With all the security and law enforcement following the blast, her friend was stuck in downtown Boston while her boyfriend was at the hotel, said Wasson, who works at Thomson Reuters in Eagan.

Two bombs exploded near the finish of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing two people, injuring hundreds of others and sending authorities rushing to aid wounded spectators, race organizers and police said. A third bomb exploded an hour later at the JFK Library.

About two hours after the winners crossed the line, there was a loud explosion on the north side of Boylston Street, just before the photo bridge that marks the finish line. Another explosion could be heard a few seconds later.

The Boston Marathon said that bombs caused the two explosions and that organizers were working with authorities to determine what happened. The Boston Police Department said three people were killed and more than 140 injured.

Wasson and her husband, Jeff Miller, are local runners. Miller has qualified for the 2014 Boston Marathon. He plans to run, despite the tragedy.

What if there is another bomb?

“Then there is another bomb,” Miller said.

He qualified by running a time of 2 hours and 58 minutes at the Mankato Marathon and again at the Rochester Med City Marathon. Qualifications are always a year in advance, he said.

He said he will run the Boston Marathon next year like it is any other race.

“There are too many people, too many opportunities to be afraid of this stuff,” he said.

Miller noted that bombings happen all around the world but are uncommon in the United States. He said it is difficult to secure a marathon, which is 26.2 miles, as compared to a sports arena or stadium.

He said he thought the timing of the bombs seemed to be aimed at when the most runners would be near the finish line — the middle of the pack. And he said it is an event with many cameras and cellphones to capture the blasts.

Wasson said they have two other friends running in the Boston Marathon who also are fine.

“Thank God for Facebook,” she said. “That’s how I found out about my friends.”

She said they know a man from Mankato who crossed the finish before the blast and they knew another man whose wife was spectating. All three were safe and back at their hotel watching the TV news.

Albert Lea woman Lori Alexander said her niece, Tori Cowles, ran in the Boston Marathon. She finished at 3 hours and 15 minutes and texted her aunt that she was fine.

“She said the city is just pure chaos,” Alexander said.

Cowles is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, Moorhead, and hails from Alexandria.

The first clue to Alicia Harrison that something was wrong came when the runners in front of her reached a halt and formed a wall of confused people in the middle of the road.

“They just abruptly stopped the race,” said Harrison, an Austin resident who had gone to watch and run a portion of the Boston Marathon Monday. “It was just chaos. Nobody knew why.”

About half a mile away and out of earshot of Harrison, two bombs had exploded in the packed streets near the finish line. The blast killed at least three people and injured more than 130 in a terrifying scene of shattered glass, billowing smoke, bloodstained pavement and severed limbs, raising alarms that terrorists might have struck again in the U.S., authorities said.

Though Harrison hadn’t qualified for the marathon, she had been running the second half of it for her own enjoyment. She typically goes on runs of 10 to 13 miles, and hoped to make it into the 26.2-mile race next year. When runners ahead of her came to a stop, Harrison said, she didn’t feel like she was in danger, but she knew the cause must have been serious.

“Police weren’t taking time to really speak to people,” she said, adding that the streets were packed with emergency vehicles and personnel “as far as you could see.”

“I just thought I needed to get out of the way,” she said.

She didn’t see any of the injured, and would later find out about the bombs from a TV report. In the meantime, however, she and many others were trying to figure out where to go. The cell phone grid had been shut down to prevent people from detonating explosives using their phones, but it also meant confused runners and spectators had no way of finding their friends and families. The marathon’s alphabetized meeting place had been closed off because of its proximity to the finish line. It took Harrison’s phone an hour and a half to regain its signal.

“The most concerning thing was that people weren’t able to find anyone,” Harrison said, adding that when she finally did contact friends and family they were extremely relieved. She was fine, but she hoped not too much trauma had come from the incident.