Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

April 16, 2013

‘A lot of fear’ in Boston

3 runners from this area describe the scene

Debbie Blank
The Herald-Tribune

— 1990 Batesville High School graduate Tammie Wonning finished her first Boston Marathon in 3 hours, 54 minutes, probably 20 minutes before the pair of blasts that killed three and injured more than 130 Monday, April 15.

“I went from having the most amazing, wonderful day of my life to it being jerked out from underneath me.”

At the race’s end, “My body temperature dropped and I was shaking so bad somebody else called the medics” and she was taken to the medical tent across from the finish line.

The first explosion “sounded like a cannon.” When the second bomb was detonated, runners and spectators knew “that was not good ... we’ve got a situation on our hands. In every crisis, people emerge who become the leaders and pull people the way they need to be pulled... they handled it so well.”

“There was a lot of fear .... There was shock, disbelief, realizing people who were out there doing what they loved were now injured.”

The Baltimore, Md., resident reports, “As soon as they started wheeling other people in ... who were seriously injured, I left so I could go find my Mom,” Vergie Sharp, Batesville.

Sharp was sitting just past the finish line, hoping to glimpse her daughter. “She was close” to the blasts. “I know she saw worse stuff than I saw.”

According to the University of Maryland payroll coordinator, “prior to the race, we had decided on three spots to try to meet at certain times.” Amid the chaos, “I had no idea where she was.”

Wonning retrieved her bag, but cellphone service was down. After a few minutes, “thankfully, I was able to get a hold of my sister, who had already heard from my Mom. She helped coordinate us meeting up ... It took us at least an hour or two before we connected.

Amid the sadness, the 41-year-old single woman was impressed by the people who stayed behind to help. “People were just so absolutely wonderful while I was waiting for her. The amount of support that was out there was amazing.”

When mother and daughter reunited, “we hugged and cried. I have been crying since the explosions went off and I saw the first person wheeled into the tent.”

Hotels were evacuated and some of the runners were being interviewed by U.S. Department of Homeland Security authorities.

The women got a taxi to Logan International Airport to fly back to Baltimore. Still wearing their gear, marathoners bonded while waiting for flights. “Nobody knew anything. It was a matter of people sharing stories of what they experienced.”

Wonning, who also has completed three 100-mile ultramarathons in Florida, notes, “The running community is strong and resilient. As tragic as it is, we’ll continue on.”

Former Batesville resident Ross Brewer was 6 minutes away from finishing the Boston when the mass of runners 30 people wide “just bunched up and stopped. We assumed somebody had fallen out.” He grabbed his cellphone to call his wife, Darlene, and her sister, who were about half a mile away, a little over a block from the finish line.

Of the two explosions, Brewer reports, “She and her sister saw it, felt it and heard it.”

He was not allowed to finish the marathon. “The police were incredible. They came out of the woodwork from everywhere.” As officers ran toward the blasts, they pushed spectators into the street toward the runners. His wife was told to leave the area. The two sisters grabbed hands and ran toward the marathoners.

It took awhile for the Brewers to connect by cellphone, “then somehow we found each other in the crowd.” The women were holding up a sign saying, “‘GO, ROSS!’”

“After we calmed down, we immediately headed away from the tall buildings” toward Fenway Park, fearing more bombings.

“At first it was a little surreal. You’re thinking, ‘What’s your next step?’” They planned on taking the subway back to their car near the starting line, but the system was shut down. They couldn’t find a cab.

False rumors were flying around: a guilty party was captured, there was another explosion at a hospital.

A friend “was already on his way in because he knew we needed a ride out.” They stayed at a Massachusetts hotel Monday night and drove home to Bel Air, Md., Tuesday. “It got more emotional for all of us after we got out of the city ... and were actually safe.” With the violence  “too close to home,” the family is avoiding TV news right now.

When asked if he was upset about not being able to complete the marathon after training so hard, the former Hill-Rom employee said, “I think more about what happened and the people who were killed or injured. My family, that’s the closest thing to my mind” rather than finishing the race.

This was the 49-year-old’s fourth marathon after completing the Flying Pig in Cincinnati twice and Indianapolis marathon once. Brewer observes, “It was the best organized race I’ve ever done of that size. I was pleased with the amount of security. They even had National Guardsmen out on the streets. You couldn’t go 10 feet without seeing a policeman.”

He says the devastation won’t discourage him from competing in future marathons, but “it definitely will make me think twice about running in a big, important event” that could be a target.

The Becton, Dickinson Diagnostics manager of customer contact centers, who moved from Batesville in May 2012, says the family is “thankful about how people reached out to us and were inquiring about our safety and then communicating to other folks.”

A day later, “Darlene is still a little shook up. We both are.” They are disappointed, too. “It’s a crazy world. You don’t like knowing things like this can happen.”

Bright resident Kelly Schoenefeld had finished her fifth consecutive Boston Marathon in 3 hours, 56 minutes. She was already on the subway when the incident happened. “The train had stopped. We sat on the ground for about 10 minutes.” At the next stop, the train was evacuated. “There were sirens and police cars and ambulances going everywhere.”

The mother of two recalls, “You could not get a hold of anybody by cellphone for it seemed like ... 10-15 minutes.” The crowd learned about the bombings by text messaging and communicated to their families they were OK using that method.

Her Michigan brother was near the scene waiting for his wife to finish the race. “He was terrified,” according to Schoenefeld.

The runner’s reaction? “I right away thought it was terrorism. I don’t think something little would happen there. I thought there’d be other (targeted) places. I didn’t think I needed to be in the heart of Boston.”

After exiting the subway, “I know a lot of people were going to find taxis. My concern ... there was a tunnel you had to take ... I was afraid they would shut that down.”

“I was blessed enough to get off at the subway station that had the one water taxi to the airport,” where she was to catch a  5:20 p.m. flight, and she remembered where the water taxi stand was.

Physically, she was beat. “It’s a very hard race” because of constant rolling hills. “No matter what time you get ... you’re happy you finished it.” Nevertheless, she walked a half mile to catch the water taxi.

“The one thing I did that day that I don’t normally do” before a marathon was to put cash, a credit card and driver’s license in her checked bag that she reclaimed at the end of the race. “I had enough money to take the water taxi.”

At the airport, “security was definitely at a different level. It was heightened.”

When asked if she knew any of the injured or dead, the 43-year-old answered, “I don’t think I do. At the finish line, I saw a girl I knew 20 years ago at college. What are the chances of that? She was waiting for her husband” to finish. “I wonder if she was standing there when that happened.”

To those who are afraid of future foreign or domestic terror, Schoenefeld advises, “Do not let fear control your life. It is exactly the tool the enemy of this world used to keep us stuck and scared to step out and live ...

“As a 22-year flight attendant, I lived through flying on Sept. 11 and a restaurant shooting in San Francisco on a layover, and as a marathon runner, I lived through the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

“I refuse to let fear take control of the life God has intended for me. It is important to realize our days are truly planned for each one of us from before we were born and that we can’t add one more day onto our lives by worry and fear. This gives me true freedom to live each day to its fullest, refusing to give in to the fear and instead doing exactly what God has called me to do in my life.”