April 15 should have been a day of celebration for Camas and Washougal runners Anita Burkard, Dolly Fisher Bales, Derek O’Quinn and Dana Seekins.
All four crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon after training together for months at LaCamas Swim & Sport.
“Right after I crossed the finish line, I turned to the perfect stranger next to me and gave him a high-five,” Fisher Bales said. “We finished! It was such elation.”
Seekins recalled the warm temperature in Boston for the marathon the year before. She was almost dreading it at the starting line. This year, the weather was “perfect.”
“I ran a six-minute [personal best]. That’s how good the conditions were,” Seekins said. “I had about 30 minutes to celebrate that.”
At 2:50 p.m., the first of two bombs exploded in Copley Square killing three people and injuring 170 more. Seekins was caught in the middle of the chaos searching for her husband.
“I went to meet Bryan, and I was facing that direction,” she said. “I saw the blast and the smoke. It was so loud.”
Seekins caught a glimpse of her husband as she made her way to the finish line, but she hadn’t talked to him since before the race started. Exhausted from the marathon, Seekins struggled to make her way through the crowd. Panic set in as she heard the sirens and saw the emergency responders. Police had also set up perimeters between the runners and the crowd.
“After running 26 miles, I’m not about to go jumping over barriers,” Seekins said. “I asked somebody if I could borrow their phone. I called Bryan, but I couldn’t get through. We tried it again and I finally got a hold of him. I just told him to meet me at the street corner. It was intense.”
Burkard and Fisher Bales were picking up their bags by the buses on Boylston Street when they heard the explosions.
“The first one set us back on our heels at bit. We were both wondering what it was,” Fisher Bales said. “When the next one went off, we knew something terrible had happened.”
They were given more details through text messages. Family and friends were already asking if they were all right.
“You think it’s something like an attack, but you hope it isn’t,” Fisher Bales said. “Unfortunately, it turned out to be true.”
Fisher Bales knew her husband was in the waiting area. Burkard said her husband, his sister and three other friends were standing near one of the bombs. They left just minutes before it went off.
“The elation of finishing the marathon dissolved into concern and shock at the magnitude of what just happened,” Burkard said.
The four runners returned home to an outpouring of support from their hometowns.
“It’s wonderful to be back home. Running a marathon is inconsequential to the frailty of life,” Seekins said. “The amount of phone calls, e-mails and text messages we’ve received has been overwhelming. I feel real blessed to know there are so many people here who care about us.”
Seekins and Fisher Bales feel sorry about the victims. Many of them were there just to cheer on the runners. They had no idea they were in harm’s way.
“What makes Boston so special is all the people,” Fisher Bales said. “You are in their city, but they make you feel so welcome. That’s what makes it so heartbreaking.”
“It’s 26 miles of non-stop cheering for you,” Seekins added. “I am so sorry for the ones who were killed or injured. They are such an important element to the running. Even though they don’t get a medal, they should.”
Seekins thought this would be her last Boston Marathon. But something deep inside encourages her to give it another go.
“I anticipate the next Boston Marathon will be very passion filled. People will be running and cheering with a sense of defiance,” Seekins said. “You cannot do this to us. We will not be swayed.”