Boston Marathon runners from Hamilton tell their blast stories
Pat and Rose Fischer are feeling exhausted but grateful as they rest in the quiet of their Boston hotel room, trying to make
sense of all that's happened.
A few hours earlier, only six minutes from the finish line, they were forced to quit the race they'd dreamed of running together.
Still, there's not an ounce of disappointment in their voices as they talk about their experiences.
Two bombs exploded near the Boston Marathon finish line on Monday, killing three people and injuring 140, police say.
"It's puts everything in perspective," said Rose Fischer, 62, from west Hamilton.
"If we'd been going just a little faster, well, it's something we've thought a lot about. We were saved. We're feeling very
fortunate and grateful."
Rose and her husband Pat, 63, were full with excitement when they huddled with the thousands of others at the start line hours
earlier. It was Pat's fourth time doing the Boston and Rose's third but it would be their first time racing it together. They'd
hoped to finish in four hours and 45 minutes and were feeling good as they neared the finish line.
Pat estimates they were about six minutes from the finish line when suddenly the mood around them changed. They hadn't
heard the explosion but noticed runners were slowing down and stopping, while others were clutching cell phones to their
"We kept running through the crowd," said Pat.
"We didn't realize they'd stopped the race. We didn't know what was going on."
Filled with excitement about being so close to the finish line, the Fischer's kept running. When Rose spotted two helicopters
near the finish line, she thought they were there for the runners.
"I thought, oh, this is good."
Then Pat started overhearing cell phone conversations.
"I could hear people saying the words 'explosion' and 'downtown'," said Pat.
"That's when I knew something was wrong."
When police appeared and told them the race was over and that they needed to go back to their hotel rooms, they knew
something was terribly wrong. It took more than an hour to get to their hotel and it wasn't until they turned on their TV that they
learned about the extent of the tragedy.
"I'm so glad we weren't further ahead and that we didn't witness anything. That would have been very traumatic," said Rose.
The Fischer's had hoped to leave for Hamilton tomorrow but have been told there will be delays getting out due to extra security.
'This whole situation is so crazy'
Esther Pauls said she felt "great" when she finally got the call saying her friends Rose and Pat Fischer were alright. She was
worried about them because their estimated time to complete the race was the same as the time the explosion went off.
Pauls has been training the Fischers for about five years. Last year Pat, 63, completed the Round the Bay race with the goal
of going on to do the Boston then suffered a heart attack two days later.
The doctor cleared him to go this year, however, saying he was in good health. Rose, 62, was a little faster runner but she had
planned to slow her pace so she could run with her husband.
"It felt great to hear from them," said Pauls. "I was worried because I thought they were crossing the finish line at the same time as the explosion."
She learned they were okay almost three yours after the first reports, hearing from a friend who had gone down to support them.
"This whole situation is so crazy."
"I've been trying to get hold of them ever since I heard," said Pauls, adding that there are about 70 runners from Hamilton at
the Boston marathon.
"I was talking to her just before she left and she was so excited to be going," said Pauls
Gina Demczuk is another Hamiltonian who was in the race. She said it's scary to think that had she finished just half an hour later, she would have been in the epicentre of a bombing.
"There were tons of spectators," the 26-year-old told CBC Hamilton by phone Monday. "It is scary."
Demczuk cleared the finish line after three hours and 37 minutes, about 30 minutes before the first bomb went off near Copley Square.
"I was away from the area by that time [when the explosion happened," she said. "I didn't hear it. There were tons of
volunteers directing runners with megaphones."
Chaos in Boston
Michael Cyr, a runner from Hamilton and McMaster University doctor, didn't hear about it until he turned on the news at his hotel.
What he saw was competitors and race organizers were crying as they fled the chaos. Bloody spectators were being carried to the medical tent that had been set up to care for fatigued runners.
One runner, a state police officer from neighbouring Rhode Island, said he saw at least two dozen people with very serious injuries, including missing limbs.
"It's pretty sombre here," he said over the phone. "In the hotel lobby, lots of people are there watching the news."
What happened an hour after Cyr crossed the finish line is the dark side of his marthon experience.
"Crossing the finish line was great. I had such a great day," he said. "Then to hear about it is pretty upsetting."
Cyr said his sister and her husband who are staying at a hotel outside of the city have been asked not to leave Boston. Transportation is stopped, he said, and he's not sure if he'll be able to return back to Hamilton as scheduled Tuesday.
According to the Boston Marathon website, 2,078 Canadians are listed as entrants. About 27,000 people were in the race.
About three hours after the winners crossed the line, there was a loud explosion on the north side of Boylston Street, just before the photo bridge that marks the finish line. Another thunderous explosion could be heard a few seconds later.
Smoke rose from the blasts, fluttering through the national flags lining the route of the world's oldest and most prestigious marathon. TV helicopter footage showed blood staining the pavement in the popular shopping and tourist area known as the Back Bay.
Demczuk and her mother are both safely in their hotel near Copley Square. She isn't sure if her hotel is in lockdown, and couldn't see anything from her window.
Hamilton mayor Bob Bratina once ran in the Boston Marathon. He issued this statement Monday night:
"I have expressed on behalf of the people of Hamilton to Boston's Mayor our sympathy and support for his city and its people. Hamilton has a special relationship with the city and its historic race. The first time foreigners won the race was in 1900 when Hamiltonians finished first, second and third. The great Johnny Miles won twice, in 1926 and after moving to Hamilton to live in train, won again in 1929. Hundreds of Hamiltonians have run Boston, including myself on 2 occasions. Those experiences led my family to love the City, its people and its beauty. Boston is a special place and not deserving of this ignominious act of violence."