Frederick County runners describe horror of Boston Marathon bombing -- Gazette.Net


Sarah Weddle, 27, of Mount Airy had just begun to wrap herself in a blanket after completing the Boston Marathon Monday when two bombs ripped through Bolyston Street near the finish line she had crossed minutes before.

“It was just like the sound you hear in a movie, it was this deep boom,” she said. “There was so much smoke. I just knew in my gut that this was bad.”

To report suspicious activity

Suspicious activity can be reported to the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center at 1-800-492-8877.

The bombs were detonated at about 2:50 p.m. near the finish line of the 26.2-mile race, killing at least three people and injuring more than 170 others, at least nine of whom were children, according to The Washington Post.

Thousands of runners were still on the course when the explosions, which were about 16 seconds apart, occurred four hours into the race and two hours after the winners had crossed the finish line.

Even though the FBI, which took charge of the investigation, served a search warrant late Monday on an apartment in the suburb of Revere, Mass., no arrests had been made as of Wednesday, according to reports.

Weddle, who finished the course about nine minutes before the first explosion, was running as part of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team. The group of about 550 runners from around the world was running in the 117th Boston Marathon to raise $4.6 million for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, one of the world’s premier cancer centers.

A first-timer to the historic marathon, Weddle, whose story was recounted in The Gazette last week, was running in memory of her brother-in-law’s two brothers, Matthew and Michael Pepin, both of whom were treated by the Dana-Farber medical team before they died.

Her brother-in-law John Pepin, 31, of Sykesville lost both of his brothers from a form of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Matthew, 5, died in 1980, while Michael, 39, passed away in 2011.

Cheering her on were Weddle’s parents, three of her best friends, her sister and brother-in-law as she crossed the finish line. It took her more than an hour to find them after the explosions.

“I was pretty panicked. They had been cheering for me, and they had been very close to where the bombs went off, and I didn’t know if they lingered there,” she said. “I really didn’t know what to do.”

It wasn’t until Weddle met two strangers who allowed her to use their cellphone that she was able to reach her family, all of whom were unharmed, and let them know where she was.

“It was very emotional,” she said of the reunion. “I cried.”

At least 18 people from Frederick County ran in the marathon, according to the Boston Marathon’s website. About 10 of them were members of the Frederick Steeplechasers Running Club.

There have been no reports of any county residents being among the casualties.

Pamela Geernaert, president of the club, said she was on the phone with her husband a quarter mile from the finish line when she heard the first explosion.

“It was just the loudest boom I’ve ever heard and a big gray puff of smoke,” she said. “I said to my husband, ‘A bomb just went off at the finish line.’ He didn’t believe me.”

Geernaert, along with a few of the club members, had finished the race about 15 minutes before the bombs were detonated and were retrieving their clothes from a charter bus.

“It was really scary,” she said.

Earlier in the day, the group had agreed to meet at a bar in town after the race. Soon after the explosions, most of the Steeplechasers had walked through the bar doors or texted other members letting them know that they were unharmed, except Harriet Langlois and Lou King, Geernaert said.

“I started to panic because when the bombs went off that was when Harriet and Lou would be finishing,” she said. “About 15 minutes after that they walked into the bar, and I just grabbed [Harriet] and sobbed.”

It was Geernaert’s fourth time running in the Boston Marathon.

“I thought about not coming this year,” she said. “And as I was running — before the explosion — I kept telling myself this is my last Boston. I’m not doing this race again.”

Like Geernaert, Weddle said that she won’t be running again in the Boston Marathon.

However, she said she is still planning to compete in the Frederick Half Marathon at the Frederick Running Festival, scheduled for the weekend of May 4.

“I’m excited about it,” she said.

Like many of the marathon runners, Weddle said she was interviewed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security before she boarded a plane to Philadelphia on Tuesday.

“They just asked me what I saw, heard, and smelled,” she said.

Security stepped up

In the wake of the bombing, runners at the Frederick Half Marathon will see additional police and private security along the route, particularly at the start and finish lines near the Frederick Fairgrounds, said Lee Corrigan, the president of Corrigan Sports Enterprises, which is organizing the festival.

Corrigan said he’s been to Boston for the marathon several times, but has never competed in the race. He said his heart goes out to those who were injured.

He said the Boston event organizers must have been shell-shocked by the incident.

“We work so hard all year long to put these events on,” and it is always hard to take when something goes wrong, he said.

Meanwhile, as of Tuesday afternoon, security procedures at Fort Detrick in Frederick hadn’t been changed in response to the Boston attacks, spokeswoman Lanessa Hill said in an email.

But MARC train riders could expect to see an increase in police presence throughout the system, including at the Frederick and Brunswick train stations, according to Terry Owens, spokesman for the Maryland Transit Administration.

“While no specific threat exists which directly, or indirectly target MTA facilities, MTA police and personnel are exercising heightened vigilance,” he said Tuesday in an email.

Officials offer support

City Mayor Randy McClement (R) released a statement Tuesday offering thoughts and prayers to all those affected by the attacks on behalf of the Frederick Board of Aldermen and city residents.

“As you navigate through the unimaginable, we come together as one in this great nation and extend our support to our fellow citizens and colleagues in the city of Boston,” the statement said.

Frederick County Commissioners President Blaine R. Young also released a statement Tuesday on behalf of the county extending condolences to victims of the blast and urging county residents to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.

“As have our neighbors in counties surrounding our nation’s capital, here in Frederick County we are asking our employees and citizens to be vigilant and careful in the aftermath of this tragedy,” the statement said.

Frederick County Commissioner David Gray (R) was in Boston Monday with his family to watch his niece’s husband run in the marathon.

He spent Monday in Newton, about 10 miles outside of Boston, but said that when he and his family went downtown Tuesday to attend a circus, everything seemed to be running smoothly.

There were a number of police officers on the streets, and areas around the blast scene were blocked off, but people seemed to be going about their daily routines, he said.

“It didn’t seem oppressive at all,” Gray said.

Vigilance urged

People need to follow their gut instinct in deciding if something is suspicious and should be reported to police, Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said.

“People often know when something just isn’t right,” he said.

Whether it’s a strange vehicle parked somewhere, a package sitting where it doesn’t seem to belong, or someone taking pictures of areas that aren’t usually photographed, police get calls for a wide variety of topics, Shipley said.

Frederick County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Bailey also urged residents to report suspicious activity and behavior, “even if it’s something small.”

Although often the reports turn out to be nothing, at other times a small piece of information might fit with other pieces to help develop a case, Shipley said.

He said people shouldn’t disregard a feeling that something is odd or out of place.

The Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center in Baltimore County is a 24-hour facility of local, state and federal investigators that can quickly analyze incoming information and forward it to the appropriate law enforcement agency to be further looked into.

“This is what they’re waiting for,” Shipley said. “They’re waiting for you to make that call.”