Boston tragedy close to home for runners
Warwick resident and Providence Fire Fighter Hans Ramsden completed the 2013 Boston Marathon 22 minutes before two bombs exploded at the finish line Monday afternoon.
He waited an emotionally charged half-hour to learn that his wife, Karen, as well as their two daughters, his parents and several other loved ones, all of whom were in Boston for the race, were safe. He tried again and again to call or text them but didn’t have cell service [police had service suspended out of fear cell phones would be used to remotely detonate more bombs].
“They couldn’t get to me and I didn’t know where they were,” he said. “There was a lot of confusion, uncertainty and anxiety not knowing their safety.”
But when he was reunited with family and friends, he was “extremely relieved.”
“My kids literally ran down the street to hug me and it was the nicest hug from them I’ve had in a long time,” he said.
Lydia and Keira, 10 and 7, are students at John Brown Francis.
For Karen, seeing them embrace helped ease the panic she had been feeling since the chaos began. After the children, she eagerly wrapped her arms around him.
“Once they saw him and they knew he was OK, it was my turn,” she said. “My main objective was to get to my husband. I wanted him to know that I was OK, and that the girls were OK –but I needed to know he was OK.”
Hendricken cross country coach Jim Doyle said it was an emotional day. Doyle and assistant coach Nate Greene accompanied runners they’ve been coaching. Doyle’s 18-year-old daughter, Erin, was among them. The last time he saw her was at the 24-mile mark around 2:25 p.m. After the explosions, and when and he was told the finish line was bombed, he calculated where she was.
“I immediately started doing some math because I knew my daughter and a few other people I was coaching were going into that area around that time,” Doyle said. “My daughter was just eight minutes away from the bombing.”
His other runners were closer. One finished six minutes before the blasts; another more narrowly escaped by a minute and a half. Another never finished the race because Boston Police had already blocked the road.
With no cell service, Doyle immediately headed to the Boston Common, where he found Erin safe from harm. Three members of the Hendricken cross country team, including his nephew Connor, as well as Tyler Henseler and Colin Tierney, who attended as spectators, were unscathed.
“Nobody asked or cared about anybody’s time; we were just concerned about where everyone was,” said Doyle. “We were all in shock and thankful to God that all the people we knew were safe, but we were grief-stricken, hearing that people lost lives and limbs. It ruined what should have been a happy day.”
Another runner, Ramesh Kanjilimadhom, who traveled from India for the marathon, had finished before the explosions. He was about to board a train when he heard the booms.
“Police cars, fire trucks and ambulances started zigzagging and the police were on duty controlling the thousands of people there,” he said. “They cordoned off the finish area and we knew something wasn’t right. We [were] advised not to hang around there, so I proceeded to the train station. I took what I found later was the last train out to Providence before they shut the train service down, got off and met with my friends.”
By then, he had cell service and was able to speak to a friend who updated the rest of his friends and family. He was also able to log onto Facebook and update his status.
While pleased to finish the race for the third time, Kanjilimadhom’s happiness was short-lived. As a father of two young children, the death of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy from Dorchester, troubles him deeply. The boy’s younger sister lost a leg, while his mother suffered a brain injury. Two more people were killed, with at least 170-plus injured.
“Every time I look at that medal from the marathon, my heart will sink,” Kanjilimadhom said. “I’ll also be thinking of the others who lost lives or got injured in the blast, not my own triumph of finishing another marathon.”
But Kanjilimadhom, as well as Doyle and the Ramsden family, remain hopeful. In spite of the tragedy, Kanjilimadhom vows to run the race again.
“I’d rather let the human spirit endure and prevail rather than be beaten by cowards,” he said.
And Doyle doesn’t plan to give up coaching participants anytime soon. For 20 years, he has been the head coach for the Rhode Island Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, helping more than 2,000 of their runners through the years. He said his runners raised more than $1 million through the program.
Doyle also coached his brother, the late Bobby Doyle, who in 1985 completed the Boston Marathon in fifth place. In 1979, Bobby secured seventh place, and earned 12th place the previous year.
“I do this in my brother’s memory,” said Doyle. “I coach a lot of good runners and I enjoy helping people cross that line. Something like this would never deter me.”
Ramsden feels the same. For the third consecutive year, he ran as a member of the Boston Children’s Hospital charity team, benefiting a 10-year-old boy named Peter treated at the hospital. In total, Ramsden has helped raise more than $20,000 for the hospital on Peter’s behalf, and Monday’s incident isn’t going to stop him from continuing his efforts.
Peter and his family, who have become close friends with Ramsden, attended the marathon. Ramsden greeted them, giving Peter a high-five about a mile and a half before he crossed the finish line. When he heard the explosions, not only was he concerned for his wife and children, but he worried for Peter and his loved ones, too. He was happy to hear they were unharmed.
Thorough the mayhem, Ramsden and Karen said they are grateful for having a tremendous support network, as neighbors, who attended the event to cheer him on and made donations toward his run, picked them up and drove them home. His firefighter buddies also contacted him to see if he needed anything, which he is thankful for.
“I can’t even tell you how many text messages and calls I received,” Ramsden said. “We’re blessed.”
Karen said she was touched by the generosity of strangers. After completing the marathon, Ramsden walked two blocks toward the Westin Copley Hotel, as Boston Children’s Hospital invites charity runners there. When he was in an elevator, he heard the explosions and wasn’t allowed out of the building to find his family or offer assistance to others, as the hotel was on lockdown. He was told Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was in the building.
In the meantime, Karen was walking to the Westin to meet him, their two children close by, when she heard the explosions. Despite the horror, a man was willing to help. Unsure of where she was going, he led her to the hotel.
“He saw that I was frantic and trying to be calm for my children,” she said. “I couldn’t thank him enough. I was crying when I left him. People were just reaching out to other people to help them. In such a tragic situation, it was good to see everybody helping out and taking care of each other.”