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As marathoners leave Boston, trauma of bombings is still fresh

April 16, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske

BOSTON -- As scores of marathon runners prepared to leave Boston on Tuesday, the gates at Logan International Airport formed a sea of bright yellow and blue race jackets and shirts. Many of those waiting were deep in conversation with fellow runners, sharing tales of Monday's terror.

"I'm anxious to get home to see my family," said Christine Kickels, 45, a community college librarian with a 9-year-old daughter waiting for her back in Chicago.

Kickels came to run Boston for the first time with Yankee Runners, a local group of about 21 marathoners. All were accounted for Tuesday. Not everyone was able to finish the race, but no one was injured, she said.

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Kickels finished in 3 hours 59 minutes, and only heard the explosions later. She wore her race jacket to the airport and held a copy of the race day Boston Globe on her lap at the gate with its headline screaming "Marathon terror."

"To go from such a high to such a low ..." she said, her voice trailing off.

"Runners are resilient. We shouldn't let this stop us," said a member of her group, Mel Diab, 63, who owns a Chicago-area runner's shop, Running for Kicks, and missed finishing what he said was his sixth and last Boston Marathon. "This shouldn't change the way we live."

Diab recalled passing groups along the course who reported an explosion up ahead and dismissing it as a rumor until he saw two groups of volunteers on the sidelines praying.

VIDEO: Boston marathon explosion

He compared the experience to the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., last year, and said he hopes it doesn't stop people from participating in road races.

"What happened at the theater in Colorado shouldn't stop you from going to the movies," he said.

"But it does remind you of how vulnerable you are," Kickels said, noting that she woke up to see a military tank outside her hotel.

"It's reassuring," Diab said.

Deb Szymanski, a pediatrician from Albuquerque, was about to fly to Chicago, then Minneapolis to finish a family vacation after completing the marathon, but said it would be difficult to relax and enjoy.

Locked down at her room on the 28th floor of the Westin hotel, she remembered watching as doctors treated patients down below in a massive white medical tent.

"Ambulance after ambulance came. And the sirens ... we closed our windows," she said.

Tuesday morning, she walked through the shell-shocked neighborhood before leaving for the airport, stunned at the number of FBI agents and vehicles swarming the Back Bay.

"Boston did a great job," Colleen Gilmartin, 37, an attorney from Portland, Ore, said as she waited for her flight home.

Gilmartin was in the grandstand Monday with her mother at the finish line waiting for her father, a police trainer, to finish about 15 minutes before the explosions.

"Why is one person in that spot and you're not? It's fate," said her mother, Anne Gilmartin of Tucson.

They were struck Tuesday by the sight of many armed National Guard troops surrounding their hotel as they left for the airport. Anne Gilmartin said she was encouraged by the camaraderie people at the hotel had, sharing stories and venting.

Colleen Gilmartin recalled shootings in Tucson, in Newtown, Conn., and elsewhere, traumas she experienced from afar.

"It's distant and it's tragic, but when you see it, it definitely gives you a different perspective and understanding. It is much more difficult," she said. "It's much harder to process because you felt it."

For them and others at the airport Tuesday, it was difficult to leave Boston with so many unanswered questions.

"I just hope they catch them," Anne Gilmartin said.

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molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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