Runners consider qualifying for Boston Marathon a great accomplishment and generally perceive the only dangers as those they might bring on themselves.
When two bombs detonated near the finish line Monday, some Illinois Valley runners had completed the race, and some hadn’t reached the finish line.
Janice Dalzot of Spring Valley was waiting for a longtime friend who was running in the race and was about 2½ blocks before the finish line when the first blast went off.
“Our girl was running. We were waiting for her,” Dalzot said. “We were cheering everybody on, all of a sudden there was this big ‘boom,’ and everyone got quiet.”
The next, even louder boom, went off seemingly directly down the sidewalk, just two blocks away from where Dalzot was standing.
The scene became chaotic. Some spectators seemed hysterical, some calm.
“Then they told everybody to run and everybody went back in the other direction,” Dalzot said.
Dalzot and two friends were there to watch Konni (Losey) Fonderoli, 53, of Cypress, Texas, a Mendota High School graduate whose three children had gone to Hall High School with Dalzot’s children.
cWhen she got within a half mile of finishing, the street was barricaded, and race officials told all the runners to stop.
“They just stopped everyone. We didn’t know what was happening,” Fonderoli said.
They then learned more about the bombs, and she started calling loved ones to tell them she was OK.
“I carried my phone for the first time ever. I don’t normally carry one. I’m glad I did. I shared my phone with everybody in the corral (nearby fellow runners),” she said.
Fonderoli said cell service was spotty. Fonderoli said she had to wait almost two hours after the race stoppage to go to a bus where runners had checked in bags containing their valuable items such as personal identification and billfolds. She figured investigators were worried a bag might contain additional explosive devices.
Because she had her phone, she was able to call Dalzot and her friends, find them, then later collect her personal property and then finally get back to their hotel near the airport, far from the bomb scene. She said she hopes to receive her medal for completing (almost) the race in the mail.
Mendota native and runner Clayton Kelly, 43, now of Zionsville, Ind., was a block away when the explosion happened. Chris Kelly of Peru said his brother responded quickly to a text message, letting him know he was OK.
“He told me that it was a really rough course,” Chris Kelly said, adding it was cold and windy. “He was having a heck of a time.”
Clayton entered the medical tent to warm up, and that’s where he was when the bombs went off. When injured spectators and runners began pouring into the tent, Clayton got out of the way.
“He was pretty lucky,” his brother said.
Starved Rock Runners treasurer John Steele said the only local runner he knew had registered for the race was Susie Walsh of Ottawa. But Walsh had an injury that prevented her from going.
“She lucked out,” Steele said.
Due to an injury (plantar fascitis), annual Ironman triathlon competitor Walsh skipped the event, which would have been her third consecutive Boston Marathon. Her friends and fellow runners all thought she was at Boston today, because she had qualified. She appreciated the outpouring of support she received over the phone and Facebook, but said she is “counting her blessings” that she didn’t go.
“I am a huge believer that all things happen for a reason,” Walsh typed to the NewsTribune in a text message.
“As I grappled with this injury that I am battling, and my subsequent withdrawal from today’s race, I definitely struggled to find the reason behind it all. Today it became readily apparent. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by today’s horrifying and senseless tragedy!! I am very thankful that Bill (Walsh Jr,, her husband) and I were not there. Today would have been my third consecutive Boston Marathon, having requalified both times on that course. If all things had gone according to plan, I would have already crossed the finish line but would have been back tracking to our hotel, The Lenox, that is right kiddy corner to the first explosion. That is where Bill would have been waiting for me.”
At the time she typed her response to the NewsTribune, tThe Lenox still was in lockdown at 9:49 p.m. (Central time).
Ernie Parr of Princeton has run the Boston Marathon six times, but did not enter this year. He said a very close friend of his did, however. Shannon Pritchard of Canton, Ill., finished the race at four hours, four minutes — two minutes after the bombs went off.
“The worst part for him was his wife was at the finish line,” Parr said. “He said it was very incredibly scary.”
As soon as he heard the blast, Pritchard borrowed a stranger’s cell phone to call his wife, whose only injury was damage to her ears.
Parr said the explosions occurred at the most common time for amateur runners to finish the race. Professional runners would finish in two hours and five minutes, but the bombs went off four hours after the race began.
“That’s when there’s going to be the most people at the finish line,” Parr said.
Running in the Boston Marathon is every runner’s dream, Parr said, calling the race “the Super Bowl of running.”
“It’s a fantastic race. It’s very well-run and security is very good,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine that something this awful and tragic could possibly happen.”
Carol (Pratt) Bauer, cross country coach at Fieldcrest High School and board member for Starved Rock Runners, has run the Boston Marathon several times in the past but did not go this year. One of her athletes sent her the following in text message on Monday:
“It’s going to change the way the rest of us feel about the Boston Marathon forever.”
Bauer said anyone who is a runner is likely to echo the sentiment.
“It’s taken away some of the purity of the event,” Bauer said. “We’ll never be able to run that and not have that on our mind.”
Chris Kelly said the scenario reminded him of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the way people must have felt wondering if their loved ones were safe.
“It hit me close to home because I actually had family there,” he said. “It’s not as devastating a tragedy as 9-11, but it hits home just as hard to all of America, I believe.”
Parr said there were 35,000 runners in the Boston Marathon, and the violence could have been worse.
“But it’s just so sad ... You don’t think of Boston as a war zone,” he said. “It’s just hard to understand. It’s pointless to me.”
Runners from North Central Illinois who entered the Boston Marathon this year included Steve D. Dellett, 54, of Geneseo; Chad Ford, 21, of Geneseo; Ross Reiling, 53, of Geneseo; Jeff King, 45, of Kewanee; Ray Popejoy, 56, and Abby Popejoy, 21, both of Fairbury; and Christena Krause, 51, of Cambridge.
Steele said the Chicago Area Runners Association reported all 900 Boston Marathon runners from Illinois were safe.
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
11:30 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. I’ve just been briefed by my national security team, including FBI Director Mueller, Attorney General Holder, Secretary Napolitano, and my Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco, on the attacks in Boston. We continue to mobilize and deploy all appropriate law enforcement resources to protect our citizens, and to investigate and to respond to this attack.
Obviously our first thoughts this morning are with the victims, their families, and the city of Boston. We know that two explosions gravely wounded dozens of Americans, and took the lives of others, including a 8-year-old boy.
This was a heinous and cowardly act. And given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror. What we don’t yet know, however, is who carried out this attack, or why; whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual. That’s what we don’t yet know. And clearly, we’re at the beginning of our investigation.
It will take time to follow every lead and determine what happened. But we will find out. We will find whoever harmed our citizens and we will bring them to justice.
We also know this — the American people refuse to be terrorized. Because what the world saw yesterday in the aftermath of the explosions were stories of heroism and kindness, and generosity and love: Exhausted runners who kept running to the nearest hospital to give blood, and those who stayed to tend to the wounded, some tearing off their own clothes to make tourniquets. The first responders who ran into the chaos to save lives. The men and women who are still treating the wounded at some of the best hospitals in the world, and the medical students who hurried to help, saying “When we heard, we all came in.” The priests who opened their churches and ministered to the hurt and the fearful. And the good people of Boston who opened their homes to the victims of this attack and those shaken by it.
So if you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil — that’s it. Selflessly. Compassionately. Unafraid.
In the coming days, we will pursue every effort to get to the bottom of what happened. And we will continue to remain vigilant. I’ve directed my administration to take appropriate security measures to protect the American people. And this is a good time for all of us to remember that we all have a part to play in alerting authorities — if you see something suspicious, speak up.
I have extraordinary confidence in the men and women of the FBI, the Boston Police Department, and the other agencies that responded so heroically and effectively in the aftermath of yesterday’s events. I’m very grateful for the leadership of Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino. And I know that even as we protect our people and aggressively pursue this investigation, the people of Boston will continue to respond in the same proud and heroic way that they have thus far — and their fellow Americans will be right there with them.
Thank you very much. And you can expect further briefings from our law enforcement officials as the day goes on. When we have more details, they will be disclosed. What I’ve indicated to you is what we know now. We know it was bombs that were set off. We know that obviously they did some severe damage. We do not know who did them. We do not know whether this was an act of an organization or an individual or individuals. We don’t have a sense of motive yet. So everything else at this point is speculation. But as we receive more information, as the FBI has more information, as our out counterterrorism teams have more information, we will make sure to keep you and the American people posted.
Thank you very much, everybody.