The Boston Marathon turned from a day of celebration to pandemonium on Monday, but it hasn't broken the spirits of local runners who participated in the event.
Linda-Lou O'Connor, 44, of Graniteville and an avid runner, had finished the marathon and was heading to the buses on Monday when the two bombs detonated.
O'Connor said she heard the explosion and the fire engines. She initially thought that it was a gas leak or something occurring in the subway, but the words “terrorist attack” never crossed her mind. Then, word started to spread among those at the event that the explosion was an attack.
“One of my other friends who finished behind us sent me a text – 'There is a bomb. We're getting out of here',” O'Connor said. “She said 'leave.'”
This was the first year Aiken runner Michael Roloff participated in the Boston Marathon. He tried for several years to qualify and finally did at a race in Columbia last year.
He was in the marathon's family meet-up area when he heard what “sounded like really loud cannon fire.” The family meet-up area was approximately two blocks from the detonation site.
Roloff said he and the people around him initially thought there had been an accident in the subway. Then, reports of bombs exploding filtered to them.
“My first thought someone was just speculating (that there had been a bombing),” Roloff said. “Then emergency vehicles started going by.”
Confusion abounded as participants tried to find friends and family who were running in or observing the marathon. O'Connor was running with three friends who were participating for the first time. One of her friends was not accounted for immediately because she was not allowed across the finish line and was re-routed by police after the explosions occurred.
O'Connor finally heard from her friend about an hour and a half later. All of her friends were OK. O'Connor's hotel was on the other side of the river, and getting across the bridge was a challenge. Shuttles and emergency vehicles cluttered the bridge. Crowds were scrambling in different directions.
“It was chaos,” O'Connor said.
Incoming aircraft were prevented from entering the airport after the explosions, but O'Connor's plane was on- site. She was able to return home Monday evening.
On Tuesday, O'Connor wasn't feeling the typical runner's high.
“After a marathon, you feel very happy. And, the next day, you're sore, but you feel great that you accomplished it, but I don't feel that way today,” O'Connor said.
This was the second year that O'Connor participated in this event.
Before the day turned tragic, O'Connor said it was a wonderful experience with enthusiastic crowds and perfect running weather. Boston has been a great host city,” Roloff said of the marathon. “It would be an awful thing if that spirit was dampened. I would definitely run again.”
Despite the horror that occurred on Monday, O'Connor isn't going to let that keep her away from the Boston Marathon – she said she's going to try to go back next year. “I feel like I want to go back because I want to show them that nothing will keep me away from the race.”