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Local runners, spectators describe explosions in Boston

BOSTON — Tim Kliegl, a retired UPS worker who lives in Amherst, completed Monday’s Boston Marathon in 3 hours, 54 minutes. Having started in Hopkinton at 10:30 a.m., he was passing the finishers’ refreshment tables and walking around the far side of Copley Square at 2:50 p.m. when he heard the first explosion from the marathon finish behind him. A moment later he heard the second explosion.

“I knew they were explosions,” Kliegl said. “They were loud. The second one was not as loud as the first, so I figured it was farther away, but I didn’t know where it was coming from.”

Recovering from the severe physical demands of the long run, Kliegl, 62, did the only thing that seemed sensible, which was to keep walking away from the finish area. He proceeded to Stuart Street, passing the rows of parked school buses that carry runners’ extra clothing from Hopkinton back to Copley Square. Just beyond them, near the Revere Hotel, was also the waiting charter bus on which Kliegl and other local runners would ride back to the Valley.

Kliegl, along with David Martula, 68, of Hadley, and Donna Utakis, 45, of Amherst, both of whom had finished a few minutes earlier, saw the growing crowd around a television screen in the hotel and watched as more details of the news came in.

As Kliegl described it, “Everybody was looking (at the screen), in utter shock. People couldn’t believe it.”

He pointed out that both explosions were on the north side of Boylston Street, in an area where eager spectators pack themselves six deep on the sidewalk to watch the finish. Between building fronts and the steel barriers that prevent them from spilling into the street where more than 17,000 runners had finished the race or were about to, these spectators were boxed in when the explosions occurred.

“They had no place to go,” said Kliegl, sorrow and empathy evident in his voice.

Jeff Mish, 55, of Hadley, finished the race in 3:24:06. That put him at Copley Square less than an hour after his son, Brad, who arrived in an excellent time of 2:36:23.

MaryAnn Mish, Jeff’s wife and Brad’s mother, was waiting for them in the finish area.

“She had never been to the finish area before,” said Jeff Mish, who could hardly help noticing that if he had been much slower, his wife might still have been in the finish area when the explosions occurred. “Brad was in the BAA’s tent. We got him and went to get onto the trolley. The trolley went one stop, and then they told everybody to get off it. We felt like cattle – sort of a mob, but everyone stayed orderly. We hailed a taxi and got out of there. If we hadn’t, we might still be there.”

The explosions also meant that several thousand runners completed only 20 or 25 miles before officials closed the course. Among them was Sydney Henthorn of Northampton.

“There was maybe half a mile to the finish,” said Henthorn, 54, who was running her first marathon. “I was at the head of a pack, ready to see if I could get under 4:10, and they told us to stop. They didn’t give a lot of information about what was wrong. Where we were, we had no water, everyone was standing there, shivering in the cold – but the people around us were great. Some gave clothes to the runners. Someone gave me a Polar Fleece to wear. Then people saw photos on the Internet.”

A few blocks away, former Gazette reporters Anna Maria Goossens and Jim Danko of Holyoke had just craned their necks to get a look at the famous race’s final yards and were walking to find a place to wait for Goossens’ mother, Roswitha Goossens-Winter of Corpus Christi, Texas, who was running her fifth Boston Marathon.

“We were about a block from the explosion on Huntington Avenue,” Goossens said. “We were just trying to get a sense of the atmosphere. Then race volunteers were telling us to get out of there. Things were pretty discombobulated for a few minutes.”

Goossens said her mother was one of several thousand runners who were stopped by police and race volunteers on Commonwealth Avenue, a mile short of the finish, and directed away from the area.

“At first they didn’t tell (the runners) anything about what had happened, but some runners had cell phones with them,” Goossens said. “My mother borrowed somebody’s phone and called us. It was an enormous relief to me, because I knew she was going to finish the race somewhere just around that time.”

She added, “We had brought a bottle of champagne to celebrate Mom’s fifth Boston. Back at her hotel, we opened the champagne to toast the fact that we were alive and safe.”

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