Student survives bomb attack at Boston Marathon

Staff writer

Ryan Wiebe of Peabody goes to Kansas State University, right next door to Fort Riley. He had heard bomb blasts before; one such practice explosion rattled the glass of his dorm room window.

The blasts at the Boston Marathon were much louder because Wiebe was much closer, only about two blocks away. He heard two explosions and they seemed to occur in quick succession, although he read in media reports there was about 12 seconds in between. He could feel the impact of the bombs, the Earth shake, as mini tremors rolled through his body.

At the time, he did not know they were bombs. It was Patriots’ Day in Boston, a daylong party, maybe it was cannons firing in celebration. The sounds of sirens and a wave of police officers alerted Wiebe that something more malicious had occurred.

At that point, Wiebe was a spectator. He was meeting up with K-State marathon club teammate Lyndy Stucky of Texas and her parents after she completed the race. At about 2:50 p.m. the bombs went off and she joined Wiebe and her family, walking away from the marathon route with a frightened crowd. They stopped at a nearby hotel and watched a television report that said 12 people had been hurt.

It took considerable time to get back to their hotel; the subway had been closed, blocking a quick route. As more information became available they learned about 200 people were hurt; three people had died.

Wiebe feels very lucky, maybe luckier than most. He was positioned near the finish line after completing his own run, moving later to celebrate with Stucky. In almost that very spot one of the bombs was detonated.

He viewed one of the pictures of the aftermath and saw the pavement where he was standing smeared with blood. He said he is still trying to process feelings of grief — why he was chosen to live and others to die.

In the time he stood in that spot, he was not suspicious. He was carrying a black bag himself, transporting his phone, wallet, and other small items. Everyone was carrying some type of tote. Lone bags left by spectators were not out of the ordinary.

“Even if I did see somebody drop the bag off, that would be the last thing I would think,” Wiebe said.

The events completely obscured what was a victorious day for Wiebe and his teammates. Wiebe set a new personal record in his third marathon, running the 26.5-mile race in 2 hours, 46 minutes.

“Every once in a while in running, everything clicks together,” Wiebe said.

Wiebe’s performance was influenced by the spectacle of the event. The biggest race Wiebe had previously run was the marathon in Kansas City with about 10,000 runners. The Boston Marathon had about 27,000 runners, more people than the enrollment at K-State. Wiebe said it felt like there were a million spectators on the streets.

The experience was unlike anything Wiebe had done. As he ran the early stages of the race through residential areas, people were out barbecuing. Wiebe was offered a beer more than once.

At mile 13, the runners passed by Wellesley College. The passage is nicknamed the scream tunnel because of the cacophonous noise created by the students of the all-girls college.

Wiebe was buoyed on the back half of the race. One or two spectators lined up on the route, turned to six, then eight, and then 15 people stacked in a row like sardines near the finish line. At the same time, the buildings seem to rise around runners. He was running into a valley with the noise building like a rolling timpani as he inched closer to the finish line.

Some of the participants were walking. Wiebe did not know how that was possible with all the people cheering.

The experience was worth the year of planning Wiebe committed to have the K-State Marathon Club participate. It was worth the approximately $120 entry fee and travel expenses.

“It went from a great day, running wise, to being overshadowed by destruction and sadness,” Wiebe said.

Wiebe can’t think of a valid reason someone would want to bomb the marathon and ruin everyone’s experience. The best he can come up with that it gives the perpetrators a few moments in the national spotlight.

 

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