We have watched the national news as the story of the April 15 bombing at the Boston Marathon continues with the death and arrest of the suspects in this heinous crime. This horrific day should have been a day full of joy with feelings of elation at the finish line for those participating and their families and friends.
Instead, the 117th Annual Boston Marathon will be forever remembered for a day of sadness and loss except for feelings of gratitude for those in Boston who helped so many.
A knee surgery last May could very well be the reason for Biggs Unified School District Administrative Assistant Judy Jennings being home safe now as her time was not what it normally would have been. For those who had not yet reached the finish line, they were not aware of what had happened up ahead and stood wondering why the race had come to a stop.
The Boston Marathon, like so many others, brings loud, exuberant noise and since it was Patriot Day, the thought of fireworks flashed in many minds when they did hear a loud noise.
Jennings' qualifying time was 4:06. The bombs went off at 4.09 into the race. Jennings was purposely running slower than normal because of her knee surgery. She speculated that otherwise her time might have been 4:45. She passed the 24.8 checkpoint at a good clip but felt she wanted a better time so she picked up her pace at that point.
"There is always all kinds of screaming, bells, horns and bands playing. It is 26 miles of screaming," Jennings explained of the frivolity that comes with a marathon.
"This is the most celebrated one I have been in. Everybody comes out encouraging the runners. I love the people of Boston they are so supportive," she said.
Once the bombs went off, Jennings and the other runners saw just how supportive the people of Boston could be as they opened up their homes, their cupboards and their hearts. Once coming to a stop, many wearing short sleeve tank tops and shorts in 56 degree weather, were greeted by people who came out with garbage bags to wrap around their arms, blankets, jackets besides bottled water and power bars.
"I was so emotional by this point, seeing these people, total strangers helping so many people," she said. "Boston people are beautiful."
One runner had a fancy white leather coat on that someone had handed her. Another runner had a beautiful blanket wrapped around her that a thoughtful person had given to her.
Jennings had no fears before the race but when a gate came up in front of her and six big black SUV's with blacked-out windows passed her she thought maybe it was the President or possibly politicians. The gate was opened again once the SUV's had travelled through to the highway and the runners were allowed to continue. Of course most of the runners did not have phones on them to see what had happened up ahead. She wondered why there was such a bottleneck of runners but everyone continued just concerned about their times at this point.
Page 2 of 2 - "It was getting more crowded by the minute because with 27,000 in the race, only 17,000 had crossed the finish line when the bombs went off. That left 10,000 stuck behind not knowing what had happened," she explained.
Runners are normally given souvenir bags with their numbers on it at the finish line. Something miraculous that occurred was that with all that was going on, the bags were given out the next day along with the medals that are cherished by the people who certainly earned them.
Trinity Episcopal Church is near the finish line and the day before the race on Sunday, runners were blessed there while Chariots of Fire played.
Though the race began at 10:30 a.m., Jennings did not get back to her hotel until 5:30 p.m., and feels she was in a state of shock when she was walking back to her hotel feeling very alone at that time. She had not eaten since 9 a.m., and was nearly panicked walking by herself after hearing what had happened. She was freezing cold, had to ask directions to her hotel once she had gotten off the bus and felt very alone. There were no police around and she was praying she would make it to her hotel. She had just $10 on her and she was afraid the hotel might be on lockdown like so many places at that point.
She thought, should I stop and get warm somewhere or just keep going? She made it to her hotel before it got dark and burst into tears when she saw that her friend was safe. They watched the news all night.
Jennings is grateful that her husband Kevin had decided to stay home or else he would have been waiting for her at the finish line.
She had ridden on a bus part of the way with other runners watching the police go by as she wondered about her friend Robin and if she was ok. Robin had come into the finish line at 3:44, received her bag and medal and was already at the hotel thinking she had heard thunder.
Jennings has a photograph of the policemen handing their phones over to runners so that they could text family members that they were fine because all other phone service had been shut down along with the subway.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of the April 26, 2013 issue of the Gridley Herald. To subscribe to the Gridley Herald, call 530-846-3661!