Locals attending race safe after Boston Marathon bombing

By Caroline Klapper and Vicki Hyatt | Apr 16, 2013
Photo by: Scot Worley Scot Worley snapped this photo of the finish line at the Boston Marathon before the bombs went off later that day.

As news of bombs going off at the Boston Marathon spread on Monday afternoon, Haywood County resident Scot Worley reached out on Facebook to let his family and friends know he, his wife Jennifer, and his baby daughter were safe and unharmed.

The Worley family were at the race, cheering on Jennifer’s father, Gary Melville, who was running in the race, when the first of two bombs went off only blocks away.

“We were on the 26th mile marker watching the runners come in,” he recalled only hours after the tragedy. “We heard one explosion and saw the first explosion at the finish line.”

At first, Worley said he thought maybe a generator had blown up or some other accident had happened, but when the second bomb went off, even closer this time, he realized something much more sinister was taking place.

“You get that 9/11 feeling of ‘this is part of something bigger,’ so we all were trying to get away from it,” he said.

Of course, his first thought was to get his wife and daughter far from the danger as quickly as possible.

“I immediately turned and wanted to run and thought, ‘Where’s my wife and baby?’ and wanting to get them safe,” he said. “It was chaos. There was really a lot of uncertainty.”

While the immediate aftermath of the explosions was frightening and confusing, Worley said police did an excellent job of controlling the situation and preventing an outright panic as they moved people away from the area, evacuating nearby buildings and stoping the race.

Emergency crews of medical personnel, already on hand for the marathoners, rushed into danger to help those who were injured by the blasts, Worley said.

Although he couldn’t see what had happened at the finish line, he said it was clear that emergency workers were quick to respond to the situation.

Meanwhile, the Worley’s found Jennifer’s father, stopped about half a mile away from the finish line, and they began walking away from the race route, not sure where to go.

Cell phones were blocked from making outgoing calls, which Worley said he believes was done to prevent the remote detonation of any other bombs (two more of which were found and disabled in the area), but he was able to make some posts to his personal Facebook page, assuring everyone that he and his family were OK.

It wasn’t long before residents of Boston near the race route began to open their doors to evacuees who were on foot with nowhere to go.

Worley said his family was invited into one home to rest, re-charge their cell phones, get water and use the restroom.

“They were very helpful,” he said.

By 6 p.m., more than three hours after the bombs exploded, authorities gave everyone the OK to return to the evacuated areas, where Worley said they had their car parked several miles away.

Although still feeling the shock of the situation, Worley said he was looking forward to returning home Tuesday if flights were still scheduled out of Boston.

Asheville runners safe

Mary Koppenheffer, a Biltmore Lake resident and correspondent for The Mountaineer’s Asheville publication, The Biltmore Beacon, was one of the Boston Marathon runners caught up in Monday’s tragic explosion.

Koppenheffer and her son, Matt, were both runners and had a room at the Lennox Hotel, the place where the explosions went off.

The 26.2-mile marathon starts in heats, Koppenheffer explained, with the faster runners starting at 10 a.m. and 10:20 a.m. and the third heat, mostly those running for a charity, begin at 10:40 a.m.

When Koppenheffer, who was in the last heat, was within a half-mile of the finish line, the runners were diverted.

“There were thousands of us, and everything just stopped,” she said. “We were standing there tired and freezing. Not too many people had cell phones. Word started to spread the race was off.”

While the morning had started off cold, the sun had come out later, but then a headwind developed, which left the stalled runners clammy and cold.

“People were so nice,” she said. “One woman let me use her cell phone and strangers were handing out trash bags to help us stay warm.”

Koppenheffer learned Matt was safe, but luck helped.

“My pace would have brought me right to the finish at 3 p.m. which is when the explosions went off,” she said. “Matt would have been in front of the hotel waiting at the finish line.”

However, Koppenheffer was running slightly behind, something her son knew thanks to an AT&T service that was keyed to the runners’ numbers to points along the race and sent text messages regarding the pace.

“He was just about ready to come to the finish line when he heard the explosions,” Koppenheffer said. “He went out to try to find me in the smoke. It took us over an hour to connect because of all the roads that were closed. Back on the course, it was announced we could walk a couple miles to an area where school buses were waiting.”

The Lennox was evacuated, which meant Koppenheffers had no place to spend the night. They were eventually allowed back in the hotel to collect their belongings and located a hotel near the airport.

Their hotel manager, who was from Northern Ireland, said as soon as I heard the explosion, he knew exactly what it was.

“It’s sad other parts of the world live with this, and I guess we do now as well.”

Sadness is the major emotion Koppenheffer has been left with in the ordeal.

Thousands of people came out to watch a race. There were college students cheering, having a great time. People trained for months to run the Boston Marathon,” she reflected. “It is sad someone did what they did. It’s an honor to run any marathon, but especially this one. Who knows what will happen down the road. I would run it again, but would think twice about having someone there at the finish line. Then there’s the other marathons. They all have to worry about this now.”

Editor Vicki Hyatt contributed to this story.