The blasts went off near the finish line and reportedly killed three, including an 8-year-old boy, with the number of injured climbing to more than 170 by Tuesday afternoon.
Police Commissioner Ed Davis said in a Tuesday news conference 176 victims came to hospitals around Boston, and 17 of those are in critical condition, according to the Associated Press.
At least eight Cherokee County residents — five from Woodstock, two from Canton and one from Ball Ground — registered to participate in the race, according to the event’s official website. Recorded times show all but one Woodstock man, who apparently did not participate, crossed the finish line safely.
Running for a cause
Kaye Anne Starosciak, a 39-year-old Canton resident, was cheered on by her 13-year-old daughter, her mother, father and sister — all of whom sat in the bleachers directly across from where the bombs exploded.
Starosciak finished the race about 12:50 p.m. and said she and the rest of the family left the finish line area about 1:15 p.m., about an hour before the explosions hit.
The group headed to the Boston Marriott Copley Place, just a couple of blocks away where the family had lunch while Starosciak enjoyed a massage and a shower before flying back to Atlanta.
While in the spa and fitness center area, Starosciak said she heard a bang.
“I thought someone had dropped their weights,” she said. “I wasn’t sure. I just heard a big bang.”
Starosciak said she didn’t think much about it until she walked out into the hotel and saw reports on television news broadcasts.
She had not rejoined her family and was unable to reach them via her cell phone. Cell networks were shut off in the area to avoid inadvertently setting off more explosions, according to reports.
“Our biggest thing was I had to scramble to find them,” she said. “We had a little drama finding each other.”
Despite the chaos, Starosciak was able to locate her family and they all walked about 2.5 miles back to their car. She and her daughter RaeAnna, a seventh-grader at Freedom Middle School, soon made it to Boston’s Logan Airport to fly home.
“I feel really saddened for the running community,” she said. “We run for charities, we run for causes and we accept all and any into the running community — any size, any age, any race. It’s unfortunate but at the same time it’s a strong community that will persevere and show our strength and courage, the same way we do in a marathon.”
In the same spirit, the avid runner wore the name “Lucy” on her tank top to honor her 4-year-old neighbor Lucy Jackson, who died last year from a rare medical condition.
“She never walked,” she said. “She was always in a wheelchair. My intention was to run for Lucy and the children of Sandy Hook (Elementary School) who would never run a marathon. I wanted her name to be shouted by the city of Boston.”
After getting back to Georgia, Starosciak and Cyndi Smith, a 36-year-old Canton resident and fellow race participant, also ran together Tuesday.
“She was a little bit after me in the second wave,” Starosciak said. “But the good thing is she’s OK.”
Keeping the spirit
For Norman Sandridge, an Etowah High School graduate who now works as a professor of ancient Greek at Howard University in Washington, D.C., it wasn’t the first time he heard mention of explosives during a race.
Sandridge crossed the finish line about 45 minutes before the blasts, but was reminded of the 2010 Pittsburgh Marathon when a bomb scare prompted authorities to reroute the race.
As a dedicated runner and second-time runner of the Boston Marathon, the 38-year-old said it’s sad to imagine anyone wanting to corrupt or destroy that kind of event.
“Some 96 nations are represented,” Sandridge said. “It’s an everyman’s Olympics with elite athletes, runners and amateur athletes. People come from all over the world. It’s very saddening to think anyone would want to destroy it.”
But the tragedy won’t deter him from coming back again.
“I think this is an event that brings out the best in everyone, including spectators, volunteers and certainly athletes,” he said. “We will find a way to overcome this.”
After picking up his participant medal, Sandridge and his wife got on the metro to Cambridge where they were staying with friends. They learned of the explosions after exiting the metro 10 minutes later.
“Ultimately, we weren’t in any imminent danger,” he said.
Sandridge, who also ran the marathon in 2011, said Tuesday afternoon he and his wife would catch a flight back to their home in Silver Springs, Md., around 8 p.m.
Sandridge’s father, Steve Sandridge, is the owner of Canton-based Pied Piper Pest Control and Termite Protection. He said he had not turned on the television when he received word from his son.
“I wouldn’t have known anything about it had he not texted me and said, ‘If you see anything on the news, I’m OK,’” Steve Sandridge said of the explosions. “I had no idea what was happening.”
While most Cherokeeans crossed the finish line with at least half an hour to spare, Woodstock resident Col. Ron Mastin, 72, of Woodstock finished the race only about 10 minutes before the blast.
But he was doing OK. That was according to a post by Ron Jackson, a family friend, just before 10 p.m. Monday night on Google Person Finder, a tool set up by the search engine for people to find their loved ones after the explosions.
“Heard from Col. Mastin’s daughter that he finished the marathon 10 minutes before explosions. Now safe back in his hotel,” Jackson’s post reads.
When reached Tuesday, Mastin, who completed his third Boston Marathon around the 3 hour and 50 minute mark, said he returned home Tuesday night to a flood of emails and missed calls.
The retiree said he was about three blocks away retrieving his belongings from race volunteers when he heard the loud boom and saw the smoke plume.
Mastin said he met his wife at their hotel about six blocks away where they watched the television reports together. His wife, as well as his daughter who was at home in east Cobb, had already been notified via telephone by the Boston Athletic Association’s athlete tracking program that he had crossed the finish line.
“She knew I had finished the race and felt confident I was OK,” Mastin said.
After leaving the city Tuesday morning, Mastin said the area near the finish line was still blocked off and debris remained scattered along the streets.
Mastin said he hasn’t been able to reach out to friends who have called, emailed and texted, since cell phone service was shut down in the area and he was unable to reply via email on his iPhone.
“Some people could call in, some couldn’t,” he said. “I’ve been getting text messages like crazy. I have 100 or something email messages.”
Mastin said the Boston race attracts marathon runners from all over the world and the incident will leave a mark on the city as well as lifelong race participants, some of whom may hesitate to enter the race again.
“Nothing will ever be exactly the same again,” he said.