Bismarck’s David Nash was supposed to be running in his seventh Boston Marathon on Monday. An injury kept him from participating, but he went any way to cheer on friends.
“I was standing by the railing, watching all the guys come in,” Nash said.
Soon after, chaos erupted.
Nash, like many of the members of the Bismarck contingent attending the marathon, had cleared out of Copley Square shortly before a pair of explosions rocked the finish line, killing 3 and injuring at least 140. He had returned to his hotel along with a friend, local runner Ray Hintz. Hintz withdrew after 13 miles.
“Thankfully, he pulled out of the race,” Nash said. “Because with his estimated time, he would have been crossing the finish line right at that time.”
Nash said that the local runners participating in the race had been in touch and apparently all were safe. A group of 20 from Bismarck, including athletes and their families, had been planning to meet for dinner.
Veteran Bismarck runner Lynn Beiswanger said that after he completed the marathon he milled around and returned to his hotel room to shower about 15 minutes before the explosion. Though he did not hear the blasts, he said that chaos quickly ensued.
“I heard the commotion, and everybody was running and scrambling to get out of the area,” Beiswanger said. “There was a fire department about three blocks away, and they responded quickly.”
Lori Klabunde, who had finished the marathon approximately 30 minutes before the explosions, was at her hotel three blocks away when the blasts occurred, but members of her family were within a block and heard the blasts. Even a couple of hours later she said the scene remained unsettled.
“We can’t see the finish line from our hotel, but there continue to be ambulances and people holding on to each other pretty tight,” Klabunde said.
Like Nash, Klabunde expressed disbelief that an area where she had spent so much time so recently was the site of such destruction.
“I probably walked under those grandstands six times,” she said. “It’s really hard to believe.“
Julie Jeske told the Associated Press that she was about two blocks away getting food after running the race and could see billows of smoke.
“I think everyone wasn’t really processing what was going on,” she said.
Nash expressed sympathy for those who had been nearer the explosions.
“We ran into a woman who was at the finish line, waiting for her boyfriend,” he said. “She had a cellphone and was trying to find him. It brought me back briefly to 9/11 and what it must have been like, not being able to find your loved ones. It’s frightening and maddening.”
Klabunde, Beiswanger and Nash were all in lockdown at their respective hotels in the early evening, as officials tried to assess the situation. Beiswanger had been running the race with a group from the American Liver Foundation, a charity organization he actively supports.
“We had a group of 200, and we’re still trying to locate everybody,” Beiswanger said early Monday evening. “We’ve still got a lot of friends and family members in the team gathering room, waiting to hear from everybody.”
All three expressed shock at the tragic events.
“People are sitting around and thinking, ‘Why?’ It’s a wonderful event, and now it’s going to be scarred,” Beiswanger said.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., issued a statement saying North Dakotans’ thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the bombings and their families.
“A number of North Dakotans were participating in the race, and we continue to pray for their safety, as well as the safety of all the participants and spectators of the Marathon,” his statement said.