April 16, 2013 in City

Inland Northwest runners were caught up in chaos

The Spokesman-Review
 

Amy Doneen was a half-mile from the finish line when she heard the explosions.

“It was utter chaos,” she said. “We couldn’t find out what was going on. We had to wait.”

She was unharmed but was hours from knowing if her husband, whom she feared was waiting for her near the finish line, was safe.

There were about 45 people from Spokane and around the Inland Northwest who journeyed to Boston to run the nation’s premier marathon.

All reached by The Spokesman-Review reported that they were safe and said they were unaware of anyone from the Inland Northwest who had been harmed. But some reported hours of dread as they waited to connect with loved ones.

Members of the local running groups Manito Running Club, TriFusion and Spokane Swifts Running Team reported that their members and loved ones were safe.

Doneen said none of the runners near her had phones.

“We were borrowing cellphones, and tried to call, but the cellphone lines were jammed and no one could get through,” Doneen said.

Police officers halted the race and diverted runners from the course. Alan Westfield, a Gonzaga University military science instructor, witnessed the explosions. For a moment, he thought it might be celebratory cannon fire marking Patriots’ Day. He had cut into the race at mile 19 to join his son, Jonathan Westfield, and encourage him to cross the finish line. The bombs exploded just before they crossed mile 26.

Westfield, prevented from running the whole race by a hamstring injury, said although he and his son were close enough to see the explosions, they were outside the area where people were injured. Many Westfield family members had planned to be near the finish line but were delayed and were out of harm’s way, he said.

Westfield grew up in the Boston area and remembers watching the finish after attending Red Sox games with his father. He ran the marathon with Jonathan four years ago.

“It was one of the most memorable moments in my life as a dad,” he said.

He hopes the tragedy does not hurt the community spirit of the marathon.

“We’re not going to be brought down by bad people,” Westfield said.

Lisa Sunderman said in an email that her husband, Carl, had watched the finish “right where the explosion happened later.”

“He was in the friends and family waiting area when he heard one explosion then another,” she said.

Spokane residents Rosi Guerrero and Cynthia Richman also had earlier been near the finish line to find a place to watch the race, but they left because they felt uneasy in the packed crowd.

“It was just chaotic. You could not move. We were like sardines,” Guerrero said. “Everyone was going in different directions. It was a hazard.”

Their husbands, James Richman, an assistant city attorney for the city of Spokane, and Rene Guerrero, a computer applications specialist, finished about an hour before the blasts. They heard the explosions while getting subway tickets to go back to their hotels. They managed to get on the last subway out of the area before the line was shut down, Rosi Guerrero said.

Mike Lauffer, of Spokane, finished the course and was about four or five blocks from the finish line when the bombs exploded, he said.

“It was quite loud, even at the distance we were,” he said. “It was probably the loudest thing I’ve ever heard.”

He couldn’t see smoke or hear people screaming, he said, and he continued to walk toward the subway with four others, his friends and family.

People coming out of the subway tunnel, however, told the group it was closed. At that point, they were told about the bombs, he said.

Lauffer, 47, said it was another five to 10 minutes after the explosions until he saw and heard the many police, fire and emergency medical vehicles streaming toward Boylston Street.

Eventually, his group got a cab to their hotel outside the city.

Piper Peterson, of Spokane, was just about to round the corner to the block where the bombs detonated, she said.

“If it hadn’t been for a hamstring cramp (earlier in the race), I would have been right down there,” she said.

The 66-year-old was running her fourth Boston Marathon. That knowledge of the area helped her as she tried to make her way back to her hotel.

“I’ve never seen so many police and SWAT team people,” she said.

Perhaps the most celebrated of the Spokane-area runners who ran in the marathon was Sister Madonna Buder, 82. Her autobiography, “The Grace to Race: The Wisdom and Inspiration of the 80-Year-Old World Champion Triathlete,” was published in 2010. She has competed in dozens of marathons and Ironmans.

Race records show that she was several miles from the blast and passed the 35-kilometer mark about 20 minutes after the explosions.

Jody Shapiro, a counselor at the West Valley School District, finished the race well before and was at a McDonald’s near the hostel where he was staying when he heard about the bombings.

The race had been an incredible experience because of the outpouring of support along the route from locals, he said.

“It’s part of the whole tragedy – why they would target such a happy and fun festival that is completely not political in any way. It’s just about running, about a town getting together to support the run.”

Jody Lawrence-Turner and Addy Hatch contributed to this report.

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