By LIBBY CLUETT
Felicia Scott, a Weatherford resident and Mineral Wells High School alum, recalls “just trying to finish” Monday’s Boston Marathon before twin explosions, seconds apart, drew national and international attention to the 117th running of the historic race.
Scott ran in place of her mother, Mineral Wells resident and longtime county employee Iris Stagner, who died last September when she was struck by a motorist while riding her bicycle. Just days before, Stagner had received confirmation from the Boston Athletic Association that she was invited to run in the prestigious, invitation-only marathon.
Scott wanted to honor her mother by trying to run in the marathon. After submitting her request last fall, she received special permission from the BAA to take Stagner’s place in Monday’s race.
Since Monday’s bombings at the finish line, Patriots’ Day in Boston has perhaps a new meaning in the minds of many Americans.
“Today is a sad day for the City of Boston, for the running community and for all those who were here to enjoy the 117th running of the Boston Marathon,” the BAA posted on their marathon web page.
“What was intended to be a day of joy and celebration quickly became a day in which running a marathon was of little importance.”
Scott said she was inundated with phone calls and messages from news media Monday. She said she was able to communicate with Dallas-Fort Worth television stations KXAS-TV (Channel 5) and WFAA-TV (Channel 8), which both interviewed her this spring while she was training for the run.
Before the 117th Boston Marathon came to global attention and filled television screens Monday afternoon, Mineral Wells resident Butch Stagner said his group, which had come to support Scott, was at the top of the marathon’s “Heartbreak Hill” near Boston College in Newton, Mass. He said they were about 5 miles from the blast.
“We couldn’t feel or hear anything,” he said of the blasts. “There were so many people running, and they had friends on the side who were screaming [for the runners], and we couldn’t hear anything. We were watching for Felicia to come by, and just before she came up we could see police officers jump on motorcycles and running downhill.
“Felicia came up [and continued running the course] by the time we realized something had happened,” said Stagner, which he estimated at about 15 minutes after people around him first talked about the explosions.
Stagner added that he saw law enforcement from the many towns around Boston rushing by.
“Traffic was terrible all over town,” he added. “A lot of people were trying to get out of town.”
Scott said she was near the 24-mile mark, running along Beacon Street, in Brookline, Mass., before she was stopped. She said officials “closed the whole marathon at the 22-mile mark,” but added that she and about 30 other runners were already past this point and kept running.
“It was confusing,” she said, noting at one point someone told them officials had moved the finish line.
When the group of runners Scott was in was stopped, they were taken to a nearby church, where they could use their cell phones and wait until transportation came.
She said there was no heat in the church and temperatures Monday were in the 50s. Clothed in running tights, a short-sleeved running shirt and a ball cap, she said she got cold and sought a warmer place to wait.
“I met some kids who went to a college (nearby) and they walked me over to a Holiday Inn where it was warm,” she said. “They were really nice.”
The hotel where she was waiting helped her arrange for a taxi. She said they also set up a TV so people could watch the latest news of two powerful bombs exploding near the finish line of the marathon, killing three spectators, including an 8-year-old boy, and injuring more than 170 others.
At this point, she said she was a bit “freaked out and I just wanted to get back to my hotel.”
Scott said most of the runners stopped at mile 22 were bussed to the Boston Commons – not quite a mile from the Copley Square finish line, where the bombings occurred.
In addition to Stagner, Scott’s entourage included 18 friends and family, mostly from Weatherford, Brock, Mineral Wells and Arlington.
They watched her run and cheered her on at the 17-mile and 21-mile mark along the historic marathon route. But none of Scott’s crew were at the finish line.
“I was kind of thankful I wasn’t a faster runner,” Scott said. “My mother would have been up there and we would have all been at the finish line. It’s weird how things work. I was just thankful.”
Stagner left Boston Logan Airport sometime after 8:30 p.m. Monday on a flight scheduled to leave at 6:40 p.m.
“Watching the news now, about three-fourths of what I heard [Monday] is not true,” he said. “It’s real tragic about that little boy.”
Scott left Boston Logan International Airport Tuesday, around 1:30 p.m. eastern time. She called the atmosphere at the airport “pretty normal.” But she added that the Boston Police Department staffed the airport with investigators “asking runners questions if they knew anything.”
A federal official called the bombs a “potential terrorism investigation,” which appeared to be the work of more than one person.
FBI agents swarmed a high-rise apartment in the Boston suburb of Revere Monday night, leaving with three large bags full of undisclosed material. Local officials described the apartment as the residence of a “person of interest,” but no arrests were reported.
A 15-block area surrounding the scene of the bombings in the heart of downtown Boston was sealed with police tape, access restricted to residents who live there and hotel patrons. Bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled streets, alleyways and subway stations.
Investigators were studying surveillance video from security cameras stationed in the area, television footage of the race and smartphone video submitted by spectators. Tuesday morning, officials made a public plea for photos and videos taken in the area of the explosions.
“We will go to the ends of the earth to identify the subject or subjects who are responsible for this despicable crime,” said Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office.
The twin explosions occurred more than four hours after the start of the 117th Boston Marathon, and after more than half of the 23,000 runners had completed the race. Police said the explosions happened 12 seconds apart at 2:50 p.m. Monday on Boyleston Street.
Officers sweeping the area screened other suspicious packages in the vicinity, but officials said they did not discover any other explosives.
Richard Martin, 8, of Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, was identified as one of the three dead. His 6-year-old sister had a leg amputated and their mother suffered serious head injuries.
Race officials said the boy had just hugged his father after he crossed the finish line, and was returning to where the sister and mother were standing a short distance away when a bomb exploded.
Six Boston hospitals treated the injured, several of whom were in critical condition. A doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, where 30 of the victims were taken, said most of the serious wounds involved burns and lower body extremities.
Dr. George Velmahos, chief of trauma surgery at Mass General, said some patients withstood 40 or more pellets, nail-like fragments and other sharp objects that were likely packed into the bombs.
Liz Norden of suburban Wakefield told the Boston Globe that two of her sons, both in their 30s, each had a leg amputated from the knee down.
Investigators said they did not know if the bombings were connected in any way to the marathon being run on Patriots Day, a state holiday in Massachusetts to commemorate the start of the Revolutionary War with the battles of Lexington and Concord more than 235 years ago. It was also noted that Monday was the deadline for filing federal taxes.
The marathon is an iconic Boston event, attracting elite runners from across the world. Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia won the men’s division Monday, and Rita Jeptoo of Kenya won the women’s division. Both finished more than two hours before the
CNHI News Service contributed to this report.