Flush with the accomplishment of finishing her second-ever marathon, it didn’t dawn on Tiffany Schweppe that the rumble and smoke she spotted from the family gathering area at the Boston Marathon could be anything nefarious.
Her husband, Todd, was taking a photo facing the finish line and saw something was wrong while she was still getting dressed after the race, not far from the medical tents.
“I wasn’t getting that it was bombs, that wasn’t my mindset at all. So I wasn’t hurrying. But he got that it was something bad,” she said.
The Montesano mom of four started to realize something was amiss after the second blast.
“That’s when we noticed that all of these people with white jackets and yellow jackets, which is what the Boston Athletic Association had on … were running out of those medical tents,” she said.
“In my mind, it wasn’t at ground level,” Schweppe said. “It looked to me like it came out of the 10th floor. I had said to my husband, ‘I wonder if a transformer blew.’ … It was such an odd thing. Bomb never crossed my mind.”
Aberdeen resident Don Beatty, a massage therapist, had finished the marathon just a few minutes before her, happy but a little disappointed with his three-hour, 35-minute finish time. He ducked into the subway to avoid the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds on the sidewalks, too far underground to feel the blasts that rocked the finish line, killing three and injuring more than 170 people.
“I hadn’t heard anything about it until a fellow runner told me something was going on. He was getting texts,” Beatty said.
Initially, when he heard about the smoke and noise, “I thought there was some kind of celebration going on, because it was Patriots’ Day,” he said.
“They told everybody, ‘Go back to your hotel rooms, don’t go out, don’t gather in large crowds,’ ” Beatty added.
He sat in his hotel lobby for hours, watching coverage.
“I had just been through there like 20 minutes ago and it was a positive thing. And then people were going through there with limbs blown off.”
Tiffany Schweppe had to struggle through the crowds to get back to her hotel on Huntington Avenue, overlooking the scene.
Exhausted after the race, her husband “was basically dragging me. I couldn’t run,” she said.
From their room, they watched local news coverage and looked out their window at the ambulances and police cars rushing to help.
“It was very weird. When you cross that finish line, it’s the accumulation of a lot of work, and everyone around there has done what you have done. They put in their 18 weeks of training, you have to do another marathon to qualify, so it’s a big accomplishment. The finish line is just this combined exuberance,” she said.
Seeing the aftermath the next day, “It was such a contrast from the day before, from when you crossed that finish line.”
Schweppe also saw runners trapped in a strange city, transit cut off and streets closed.
“The people of Boston — not only were they amazing during the race, but the things they did for each other at that moment were amazing,” she said. “You see all these runners walking around, they’ve got these space blankets on and they’re freezing and they’re hungry, and people are just taking them off the street into their homes.”
Beatty said when he went out to dinner that night, a big Boston family asked him about the race and if he’d come back the next year. When he said yes, they stood and cheered. Later, they gave him a ride back to his hotel.
“I’m going to go back. No doubt,” Beatty said. “If I don’t go back there, it seems like the terrorists have won.”
When he left Tuesday, the airport was clearly using heightened security.
“Massachusetts State Police were checking under vans, walking around with dogs, walking around with machine guns. I got patted down twice going through security. They were really vigilant,” he said.
Schweppe’s time, three hours and 36 minutes, has already qualified her to run again next year. When she arrived the Friday before the race, she just expected to enjoy the experience as a one-time thing.
“I would say three hours after we got back to the hotel room and we saw what happened there was no doubt in my mind we’d be back next year. I won’t let people like that ruin it. It’s such a fabulous event for the people of Boston, and you just can’t let something like that die. I want to see Boylston (Street) and all that like the way it was when I crossed the finish line, not like it is now.”
Bob Martin of Hoquiam and Aberdeen High grad Maria Rogers of Olympia also competed in the marathon and finished safely before the explosions.