Elation quickly turned to horror for Kevin O'Brien Monday, as the Paonia resident celebrated the completion of the Boston Marathon with his wife Nora and his niece at their downtown Boston hotel.
O'Brien called the DCI Tuesday afternoon from Denver International Airport, during a layover on their trip home to western Colorado.
O'Brien has run the Boston Marathon three times, and said Monday's race was probably the best run of his life. He finished quite early and went back to the hotel where he met Nora and his niece. Although their hotel is just three blocks from Copley Square, where the explosions took place, they heard nothing. They had no idea what had transpired until they saw a crowd of people glued to the large screen TV in the hotel pub.
"I thought it was a replay of the winners of the marathon, so I went over to the television." Realization struck and sadness set in.
A short time later hotel management circulated through the pub, telling guests the hotel was in lockdown.
"We were fine ... we were set," O'Brien said, but he realized there were about 5,000 runners who hadn't crossed the finish line. "We didn't know what was going on with them."
He and Nora went up to their room where they switched on the TV. "Boston reporters were saying all of the city needed to evacuate. I thought that was crazy. How are they going to evacuate the entire city? I thought it made more sense to stay in the hotel. So we hunkered down and watched the unbelievable events as they took place."
In a news update about 45 minutes later, talk of evacuation was replaced with admonitions to avoid Copley Square where the explosions had taken place.
After months of training for the event, participating in the festivities, and crossing the finish line with joy, O'Brien says he's struggling to process the events of the last two days.
"I don't know if I've ever had an experience like that in my life," he said. "I was so elated, so joyous, and three seconds later the whole world goes topsy-turvy. Everything about the race was immediately forgotten and our thoughts were consumed with this heartbreaking tragedy.
"I don't understand why anybody would be violent towards anyone, but a marathon of all things? It's just crazy. This is the biggest day in Boston; some sick and deranged person really wanted to inflict hurt."
O'Brien says he has a strong connection to Boston. He worked at the Perkins School for the Blind in nearby Watertown many years ago and has family members living in the area.
Still, he's anxious to get home to Paonia. The next event is far from his mind. But he's talked to a lot of other runners, and all are committed to returning to Boston next year.
"We're not going to let these people take this event from us and from the city of Boston," O'Brien vowed. "If anything, it strengthens my resolve to keep taking part. This is a great city, and I'm definitely going back next year. I'll probably reserve a room tomorrow."blog comments powered by Disqus