In My Opinion

Linda Robertson: Runners remember Boston Marathon tragedy

 
 
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Tribute: </span>Runner’s shoes are laid out in a display titled, ‘Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial,’ in the Boston Public Library.
Tribute: Runner’s shoes are laid out in a display titled, ‘Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial,’ in the Boston Public Library.
Andrew Burton / Getty Images

The time line

A time line of events related to the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and injured 260 others on April 15, 2013. The suspects are Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in a shootout with police several days later, and his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is in jail awaiting trial.

March 2011: The Russian FSB intelligence security service gives the FBI information that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., with his family, was a follower of radical Islam.

June 2011: The FBI closes the investigation after finding nothing to link Tsarnaev to terrorism.

Sept. 12, 2011: The bodies of three men are found in Waltham, Mass., with their throats slit and marijuana sprinkled on them.

Late 2011: U.S. officials add the Tsarnaevs’ mother to a federal terrorism database after Russia contacted the CIA with concerns they were religious militants about to travel to Russia. She later says she has no links to terrorism.

January 2012: Tamerlan Tsarnaev arrives in Russia, where he spends time in two predominantly Muslim provinces, Dagestan and Chechnya.

July 2012: Officials in Dagestan say Tsarnaev applies for a new passport but never picks it up. Russian officials say they have him under surveillance but lose track of him after the death of a Canadian man who had joined an Islamic insurgency in the region.

July 17, 2012: Tsarnaev returns to the United States.

November 2012: The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Cambridge says Tsarnaev has an outburst that interrupts a sermon about it being acceptable for Muslims to celebrate American holidays.

January 2013: The Islamic Society says Tsarnaev has a second outburst after a sermon that includes praise for civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

April 15, 2013: Bombs go off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others.

April 16, 2013: Federal agents say they know the bombs were made from pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails and other shrapnel, but they still don’t know who detonated them or why.

April 17, 2013: President Barack Obama signs an emergency declaration for Massachusetts and orders federal aid to supplement the local response to the bombings.

April 18, 2013: Investigators release photographs and video of two suspects and ask for the public’s help in identifying them. Later that night, Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier is shot to death in his cruiser, allegedly by Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Prosecutors say they steal an SUV at gunpoint from a Cambridge gas station. The driver is held for about a half hour, then released unharmed.

April 19, 2013: The Tsarnaevs have an early morning gun battle with authorities who have tracked them to Watertown. Tamerlan, who is also run over by his younger brother, dies. Dzhokhar escapes, and at around 6 a.m., authorities tell residents of Boston and surrounding communities to stay indoors. All mass transit is shut down. That order is lifted at around 6:30 p.m., just before authorities trace Dzhokhar to a Watertown backyard, where he is found hiding in a boat and taken into custody.

April 22, 2013: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was injured in the shootout, is charged in his hospital room with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.

April 30, 2013: Two friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are charged with attempting to destroy evidence by disposing of a backpack and laptop computer taken from his room after they found he was a suspect in the bombing. Another is charged with lying to investigators.

May 9, 2013: Tamerlan Tsarnaev is buried in an undisclosed location after a weeklong search for a cemetery willing to take the body.

May 22, 2013: An FBI agent in Orlando fatally shoots Ibragim Todashev, a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s, after he lunges at law enforcement officials questioning him about the Waltham killings. Officials say that before he died, he had agreed to give a statement about his involvement.

July 10, 2013: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleads not guilty to 30 federal charges.

July 23, 2013: Marc Fucarile is the last survivor of the bombings to leave the hospital.

Jan. 30, 2014: Prosecutors announce they will seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Tuesday: Ceremonies and events will mark the anniversary of the attacks.

April 21, 2014: The 2014 Boston Marathon will feature a field of 36,000 runners, 9,000 more than 2013. It will be the second-biggest field in the race’s history.


lrobertson@MiamiHerald.com

Amber Seidle-Lazo had run 26 miles of the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon when she was stopped by police one year ago on April 15 and told the finish line was closed.

She and thousands of other runners found themselves stuck behind a blockade just steps before they were to turn onto Boylston Street for the home stretch of the nation’s oldest, most iconic marathon.

“We were saying, ‘We’re almost done, why can’t we finish the race, what is going on?’ ” Seidle-Lazo said.

An incomplete but alarming explanation began circulating among the runners, some of whom had cellphones and were communicating with people on the other end of Boylston Street, some of whom were getting information from spectators.

Two explosions had rocked the finish area, and the 117th edition of the Boston Marathon had ended prematurely, in carnage. Patriots Day, traditionally a holiday when Bostonians fill the streets to celebrate the city’s history and the power of human will, had turned into a day of tragedy.

Two bombs detonated by suspected terrorists Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev — Russian immigrant brothers — had killed three spectators and injured 260. Sixteen people lost limbs.

The evil of the plot was difficult to comprehend because the target was so wholesome and innocent: A footrace, where the goal was simply to cross the blue and yellow line on the pavement.

Seidle-Lazo, who lives in Coral Gables, was denied that accomplishment after some four hours and 15 minutes of running, as were 5,632 other runners. They were invited back for the 2014 race on Monday, but she had to turn it down. She gave birth to her second daughter three months ago and has been unable to train for a marathon.

“One day I will go back and run it again,” said Seidle-Lazo, who never saw the finish line but received a symbolic finisher’s medal in the mail. “I was so close. It bothered me for a while, but then I chose to concentrate on the good that came from it.”

Boston leaders and race organizers will pay tribute to that spirit of selflessness Tuesday with events marking the one-year anniversary of the deadly afternoon, including a moment of silence at 2:49 p.m., when the first bomb exploded.

Seidle-Lazo had to wait, standing and shivering, in her barricaded area for 90 minutes before the runners were allowed to walk a circuitous route back to where they had left their bags.

“While we stood there, the residents brought us water, food, blankets, their own sweaters,” she said. “That is the memory of Boston that will stand out — the care and generosity of complete strangers.”

She also borrowed a cellphone so she could locate her sister, Jocelyn Seidle, and her 1-year-old daughter, Nina, who were supposed to be waiting for her at the finish but had returned to their hotel room, where they watched the bombing unfold live on TV.

“I was frustrated but relieved that none of us were in the area,” she said. “Had I not stopped to use the bathroom, had I not walked up Heartbreak Hill I might have been right there when it happened.”

Smoke and chaos

Spencer West and his wife, Julie, and Bryan Huberty — friends from South Florida who had completed the race — were right there, in a third-floor Lenox Hotel room overlooking the grandstands and across the street from where the bombs exploded. West, who finished in 2:57, was in the shower, and his wife (3:23) and Huberty (2:42) had just moved away from the window when they heard a thunderous boom. Twelve seconds later, another.

“The whole room shook,” Huberty said. “We weren’t sure if it was a generator, a gas main or a bomb. We saw smoke and chaos from the window.”

The hotel was quickly evacuated.

“We stepped out the door and the sidewalk was red with blood,” Huberty said. “There were police with machine guns and wearing bomb squad suits. It was surreal. It was like being in a disaster movie.”

Spencer, a native of Somerville, Mass., who grew up watching the race from Kenmore Square, recalled one indelible image from the scene.

“The volunteers were running toward the blasts,” he said. “Their first instinct was to help the victims. That says a lot about Boston people. There were a lot of heroes.”

Miami’s Enda Walsh had crossed the line in 3:54 and was 300 yards from the blasts.

“We figured an electrical box had blown or fireworks had gone off,” Walsh said.

A puff of smoke appeared but the reaction was still muted.

“People said, ‘Could it be a bomb?’ and the response was ‘No way,’ ” Walsh said. “It was only later when we saw it on TV that we realized what had happened and how close we were to it.”

Walsh plans to run Boston again next week. He still rides his bike two years after riding partner Aaron Cohen was killed by a hit-and-run driver on the Rickenbacker Causeway bridge.

Walsh’s leg was broken in the crash, which prevented him from running Boston in 2012.

“A lot of people talk themselves into being traumatized,” he said. “I’m the type to say to myself, ‘OK, I was lucky,’ and I move on.”

He grew up in Ireland during “the troubles” and IRA bombings of the 1980s.

“Terrorism on their home soil is new to Americans, and they ask, ‘Why? How?’ ” Walsh said. “But when you’re from a country where random atrocities occur regularly, you become somewhat desensitized to the violence.”

Going back

Last year 391 runners from Florida finished Boston — 87 from South Florida.

Huberty and the Wests will be among those going back, undeterred by what they saw and determined to show their solidarity with the city, which adopted the motto “Boston Strong.”

“I have two kids around the age of the 8-year-old boy who was killed and I want them to know what a special race it is — the last place in the world you’d imagine that something horrible could happen,” West said.

West will run his fifth Boston, Huberty his third. They’ll join 36,000 others.

“I think everyone will feel a little trepidation and then a great sense of connection,” Huberty said. “Some of the survivors will be running, and it will be very emotional. We want to be in Boston, we need to be in Boston.”

Read more Linda Robertson stories from the Miami Herald

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