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Local marathoners OK after explosions

Published: Monday, April 15, 2013 4:37 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 11:42 p.m. CDT
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(Provided photo)
From left to right: Julie Suter of DeKalb, Jenna Carpenter of Sycamore and Lisa Royer of DeKalb, seen here in a photo taken Sunday at the Boston Marathon finish line, are safe in Boston tonight after explosions rocked the race's finish line on Monday.

Julie Suter barely had time to recover from running 26.2 miles when she found herself in a sea of panicked spectators and runners.

Suter finished the Boston Marathon about five minutes before two explosions near the finish line Monday afternoon.

“People were really scared,” she said. “There were a lot of women crying. I just kept thinking, ‘OK, just keep going, grab your stuff and get out of here.’ ”

At least eight marathoners from DeKalb County were at the race Monday in Boston; reports from friends and runners themselves were that all were OK.

David Kuhn, 60, a legally blind runner from DeKalb; his guide, Bryon Guida, 33, of Oregon; and Robert Willis, 41, of Clare, contacted the Daily Chronicle. Brittany Rees posted on the newspaper’s Facebook page that her father, Jesse Rangel, 53, of DeKalb, was unharmed, and John Sullivan, 50, of Clare, finished the race about an hour before the explosions.

Two bombs exploded more than four hours after the start of the marathon, for which runners must post qualifying times to enter.

The blasts killed at least three people and injured more than 140 in a bloody scene of shattered glass and severed limbs that raised alarms that terrorists might have struck again in the U.S. A White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was still unfolding said the attack was being treated as an act of terrorism.

As many as two unexploded bombs were also found near the end of the 26.2-mile course as part of what appeared to be a well-coordinated attack, but they were safely disarmed, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation.

On Sunday afternoon, a day before the race, Suter, Jenna Carpenter and Lisa Royer posed for a photograph at the finish line of the marathon. Royer and Carpenter, who had finished the race about 15 minutes before Suter, already were walking back to their hotel room a few blocks away when they heard the blasts.

“We heard what sounded like a cannon, and we both looked at each other and thought ‘That was odd,’ ” Royer said.

The two shrugged off the incident and didn’t realize what had happened until they talked with a visibly shaken teenage girl in the hotel elevator about the explosions. The two women were aghast when they reached their room and turned on the TV.

Meanwhile, Willis was on a bus back to his hotel about four miles away from downtown Boston when the explosions happened.

“I heard them call the bus driver on his radio [and tell him] that there was an emergency downtown Boston and for all bus drivers to divert their routers if instructed by the police,” Willis said in an email. “I didn’t think anything about it until I got back, and I had a bunch of text messages asking if I was OK.”

Kuhn and his guide, Guida, still were on the race course when the bombs exploded. They were diverted off the course about a mile away from the finish line.

After they learned of the explosions, they passed the next major time marker, figuring that would register their location and time for friends tracking their progress online, and then headed to the offices of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the charity for which they were running.

“I had heard something, but didn’t really notice what it was [and thought] maybe it was a gunshot,” Guida said. “Apparently, it was a bomb going off. A couple minutes later, we heard a bunch of police going by.”

The duo were unsure Monday how they would return to Illinois. They had planned to fly back today, but were unsure if flights would be on schedule in light of the incident.

Kuhn will be back in Boston next year, though. He’s said he’s already qualified for the next Boston Marathon and will not be deterred by this year’s incident.

“You’d have to be a runner to know how absolutely supportive runners are,” Kuhn said. “I won’t chicken out; I want to be there to support it.”

Editor's Note: This story has been updated from a previous version.

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