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Students, alumnus with ties to Boston reflect on bombing

Marisa Iati | Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Senior Betsy McGovern escaped danger Monday afternoon by approximately 15 minutes.

McGovern completed the Boston Marathon shortly before two bombs exploded near the finish line on Boylston St. at 2:45 p.m. The explosions killed three people and injured more than 140, according to the Associated Press.

“I was probably a block away, and I picked up my bag and I heard it,” McGovern said. “I heard the first one and it didn’t really register. … I think I was just so tired that I didn’t really think about it.

“It became pretty chaotic, and then I noticed the ambulances starting to come, and you heard the police kind of go over there.”

McGovern, who is from approximately 20 miles north of Boston, said she was on the phone with her father when she heard the second explosion. She met up with her other family members who had been waiting at the finish line earlier, and they immediately got in the car and left.

“We just feel really, really fortunate that I finished earlier and that they weren’t around there when the bombs went off,” McGovern said. “I was lucky because I was picking up my bag, I had my cell phone, but there were a lot of people who hadn’t picked up their bags yet. So you can just imagine that the explosion goes off and no one has their phone to contact their family and their friends.”

The bombs blew out the front of a store called Marathon Sports, McGovern said. She said she, her dad and her uncle bought shoes there Sunday.

When she watched news coverage of the explosions, McGovern saw people she had spoken to earlier in the day.

“It just feels like, ‘Oh my God,'” she said. “Boston’s a small town and it’s just kind of crazy.”

Monday was Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts, McGovern said, and the Boston Marathon is typically held on this holiday. Government jobs give their employees the day off and schools shut down. She said as a result, there is “huge public participation” in the marathon.

“I think that’s another thing that makes this a little scary, because there are just so many people out,” McGovern said.

Sophomore Paul Kearney was affected by the explosions at the Boston Marathon in a different way. His brother Damian, a 2009 alumnus of Notre Dame who works at the University’s Institute for Educational Initiatives, ran the race.

“I was actually in class at the time of the bombings, and I was getting these texts from various people, like friends and family,” Kearney said. “As soon as I got out of class I started calling people, and I couldn’t reach anyone. And about 15 minutes later I finally reached my brother … and we were able to talk for a few minutes.

“It was good just to hear his voice. … He said everything was all right. “

Kearney, who lives approximately 45 miles west of Boston, said the rest of his family was with his brother at the marathon.

“They were parked in Boston downtown, and there was no way to get to their cars, so they had to walk out to a suburb,” he said. “Someone was going to pick them up and drive them home.”

Kearney said his brother completed the marathon well before the bombs detonated. He said his brother and the rest of his family heard the explosions from a block away.

“He saw all the people running and evacuating the general area, and he said that he was just pretty confused at the whole situation,” Kearney said. “And at the time he said, ‘You might actually know more than I do because it’s just a pretty hectic scene.’ And he just told me … to put a [Facebook] status up saying he was safe because what he was concerned about was not having friends and family freak out.”

Receiving text messages from family and friends while he was in class caused “sensory overload,” Kearney said.

“The first [messages] I saw were kind of ambiguous and I didn’t know what to make of them,” he said. “I remember the last 15 minutes of class, just, I couldn’t pay attention because I was just concerned about my family, and I immediately called them when I got out. And thankfully I finally reached them and that really calmed me down. It was just a very confusing hour there.”

Kearney said his brother was unable to return to South Bend last night as planned and was trying to reschedule his flight for today.

“I’m just thankful that my family’s okay,” Kearney said, “and I’m thinking about all of the other families affected.”

Saint Mary’s sophomore Allie Stride said she was visiting her sister, with whom she is part of a triplet, at Boston College (BC) on Monday. Stride said she went to Boston to participate in the city-wide celebration.

Stride said BC, where she watched the marathon, is at the 21-mile mark. She said she was back in her sister’s dorm room when she saw coverage of the explosions on the news.

“[There was] just a lot of worry about students who are running, and making sure everybody is okay has been the biggest concern I have seen so far, just a lot of confusion also,” Stride said. “I know there was an initial concern about … a potential bomb being right on the [Boston College] campus that turned out to be false.

“Just everybody is glued to the TV is all that’s going on right now. … Everybody’s trying to talk to people from home and whatnot.”

Gary Kaneb, a Notre Dame alumnus of 1983, said he completed the race one hour before the explosions rocked the finish line.

“[It was] literally 25 yards from the finish line,” Kaneb said. “I finished at 3:29 [minutes], so I got off the course at 1:45 p.m. or so.”

Kaneb said he ran with the second seed of runners and that the explosion went off around the time the third seed would have crossed the finish line.

“The third wave is mostly the [people running to support charities],” he said. “Those are the numbers 18,000 and above.”

Kaneb said he was on his way home when he heard the news. He said officials pulled runners, including one of his coworkers, off the course as they closed down Boylston St.

McGovern said the runners were very excited about the marathon before it began.

“It’s such a big deal for people who love to run, and you’re so proud to have your bib number,” she said. “When you’re running and there’s all these spectators and they’re cheering you on, it’s really an incredible experience. … So I think that makes it especially tragic that something like this completely soiled what should be an exciting day for everybody.”

Managing Editor Meghan Thomassen and Saint Mary’s Editor Kaitlyn Rabach contributed to this report.

Contact Marisa Iati at [email protected]