One was in Boston, three miles shy of finishing the race of a lifetime. One was in his Western New York home because a bad back forced him out of the race. One wasn’t thinking about the race at all — because she was on the phone with the vice president.
Their stories share one thing in common, though — a visceral reaction to the news the Boston Marathon had been bombed with blood staining its triumphant finish line.
Town of Tonawanda resident Amy Wallace, founder of the local gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, spent her Monday afternoon preparing for a conference call with Vice President Joe Biden. The Boston Marathon was the last thing on her mind.
“We were talking about the gun legislation, what was being done ... and how important the work we are doing is,” Wallace said.
A White House official spoke before Biden got on the line. But soon after he did, officials came into the room and informed him of the bombings.
“He said ‘they are turning on the TV in here, looks like something happened in Boston ... looks like there has been an explosion,’ “ Wallace recounted. “He just said ‘our hearts and prayers go out to everyone in Boston,’ and then the call ended.”
Wallace, a former News copy editor, said the call was shorter than planned. Activists weren’t allowed to ask questions as had been promised.
“We didn’t know what had happened, it was very surreal,” she said. “For (the bombing) to happen at the same time as the call, it was just very surreal.”
The reaction was mixed for Lockport’s John Reardon, a longtime distance runner who traveled to Harrisburg, Pa., for a marathon where he posted a time good enough to qualify for the Boston race.
His hopes of running in the iconic race were dashed, though, when a bad back forced him to withdraw last week.
He won’t be complaining about a backache anytime soon. His average marathon time is about 4 hours to 4:10.
The bomb went off 4:04 into the race.
“I saw it on television this afternoon. It was awful,” Reardon said by telephone from his Comstock Road home Monday. “I would have been there. My expected finish time was plus or minus five minutes from the time of the explosion at the finish line. I was pretty shook up when I saw it. I would have had my wife (Glenda) and daughter and her husband and three grandkids waiting for me near where the explosions were.”
Reardon, 59, a Long Island native, has been with Niagara Cerebral Palsy since 2001 and was recently named CEO. Prior to joining Niagara Cerebral Palsy, he served as executive director of Niagara County Speech, Hearing and Language Center for 21 years.
In his spare time, Reardon has been running 5Ks, 10Ks and marathons competitively for the past 13 years and said he was excited about earning a number in the Boston Marathon race after posting his qualifying time.
“It would have been my first (Boston Marathon), but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be and the injury turned out to be a good thing,” he said.
Youngstown resident Paul Beatty Jr. was in the home stretch, about three miles from the finish line on Boylston Street in downtown Boston when the bombs went off.
He was far enough away not to have heard the blast but saw police streaming toward the finish and sensed something was amiss.
That’s when his cellphone rang. It was his wife.
“She called me and said there had been two explosions at the finish line and I told her, ‘Well get out of there,’” Beatty said.
His daughter, a student at Boston University who had watched him running earlier in the race, then called with the same news. As text messages asking if he was safe began flooding in, cell service went down.
“All I could do was keep running toward the finish line,” Beatty said. “But then they shut the race down.”
He was one of about 9,400 runners who never got to cross the finish line.
As it turns out, Beatty’s relatives en route to the finish line were closer to the blast than he was.
“They had parked and were walking to the finish line,” he said. “They were about five or 10 minutes away from reaching there (when the explosion occurred).”
Though they, too, weren’t close enough to hear or feel the blasts, it was still too close for comfort.
“Everyone was in a panic mode,” Beatty said, “and we just got out of there as quick as we could. I feel awful, sick. People are dead or seriously hurt. It was truly a close call and we’re just grateful that it worked out OK.”
Others in the race
Several other race contestants from the area were identified on a pre-race roster as participants. None were thought to be among the casualties. Several indicated via social media they were not injured. They are:
• Matt Glynn, son of Niagara Gazette columnist Don Glynn. The elder Glynn said his son completed the race in 567th place among male runners with a time of 2:47:15 — an excellent showing of the 27,000 participants.
His fleet feet meant the Glynn clan didn’t find out about the bombings until they were on their way to Logan International Airport in Boston, awaiting a flight back to Buffalo.
• Kelli Dimon, 25, of North Tonawanda. She finished the race in 3:46:24, about 20 minutes before the bombs exploded. She was in the finish line area when the bombs went off though she said on Facebook she wasn’t injured.
The only casualty for her was a blown out sneaker, costing her some time in the race.
“I just got to my phone ... I am fine, thank goodness,” the post read. “I was actually in the finish line shoot when the bombs went off.”
“I blew out my sneaker in the second half, so my time suffered a bit. ... Thinking of everyone in Boston right now. Hoping everyone makes it home safely to their families.”
She finished in 4,331st place among women.
• Amanda Skorupski, 28, of the Town of Tonawanda. She finished in 3:34:31, good for 2,514th among women. A relative told the Tonawanda News Skorupski had posted a note to Facebook that she was “fine but terrified” after the blasts.
• Ron Prabucki, of Lockport. He finished the race in 3:27:19. Reached in Florida, Prabucki’s wife, Angela, said there were some tense minutes waiting for her husband to call.
“He usually calls me right after he finishes if I’m not there — and I’m glad I wasn’t because I usually stand at the finish line — and he didn’t call this time,” Prabucki said. “I happened to be online and I saw it flash across the screen, so I put on the TV and saw people on stretchers.
“I was going, ‘Oh, my God,’ then when I tried calling him, it was going right to voicemail. It turned out that he finished in the first wave and went right back to his hotel because he wanted to shower right away and get to the airport. After his shower, he saw it on the TV and called my cell.”
• Belinda Stoll, of Lockport, who finished the race in 3:54:34. She couldn’t be reached to comment.
Asked whether Monday’s tragedy would prevent him from trying to qualify for the race again next year, Lockport’s Reardon said it would not.
“I would never let something like this keep me away from what I love,” he said. “Who ever did this is obviously somebody who’s not right, but you can’t let somebody like that change your life or stop you from doing the things you love to do in life. Next year, I’m going to give it 100 percent.”
Jessica Bagley, John D'Onofrio, Rick Pfeiffer and Michael Regan contributed to this report.