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April 16, 2013

Area native narrowly avoided blasts

By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star

---- — A local man who was watching the Boston Marathon on Monday left the finish-line area just 20 to 30 minutes before two explosions ripped through the crowd.

Loren Sutton, who graduated from Milford High School in 2003, said he and his girlfriend arrived just after the elite male runners started to finish the race. They were among several people from the area who watched or ran in the marathon.

“We were right next to one of the grandstands across the street from where the first explosion was,” he said by phone from Boston on Monday afternoon.

Melissa Raddatz, a graduate of Cooperstown High School who was running in her fourth Boston Marathon, said she finished the race about an hour and 40 minutes – in 3 hours, 3 minutes, 180th place among all women – before the first explosion and was recovering in a restaurant.

“I had friends who were (still) running it who were pulled off the course,” she said.

As first, there was a lot of confusion, she said. But then people started pulling together and set up “tip lines and things like that.”

“Everyone was just helping each other out,” she said.

At least five local runners were entered in the race, and their loved ones in New York spent some tense hours waiting for confirmation that they were OK. The tension was compounded by the difficulty of connecting to a Boston-area phone network that was overwhelmed by traffic.

“We were there for awhile, but I think it must have been 20 or 30 minutes before the explosion that we decided to head back,” Sutton said. “It’s hard to say for sure, because I’m still not sure what time everything happened. So we headed back, and we’re in an apartment a block or two away from the finish line.”

Sutton said he probably heard the blasts but was watching TV and didn’t pay attention at first. Then the sirens started.

“I just assumed it was people who were dehydrated or whatever from the marathon being taken away, which I think is pretty common,” he said.

“And more and more sirens kept going by, and then we found out what happened,” he added.

He and his girlfriend found out what happened, he said, when calls and text messages started arriving from family and friends, inquiring about their safety.

“We stayed in the apartment, because we could see the street we’re on was shut down almost immediately,” he said. “The police are set up on the corner. They’re not letting anybody go up Dartmouth (Street) toward the finish line.”

“Right now, out on the street we’re on, Columbus, there’s a line of ambulances that starts right on the corner and goes at least three blocks,” he added. “I can’t see the end, but there’s at least 50 ambulances in that group.”

The experience was unnerving.

“It’s a little surreal right now, with everything that’s happening, with all these ambulances out front,” he said. “We’re not really sure what’s happening now.

“It’s clearly not over if there’s 50 ambulances outside your door – ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

“I’ve never been this close to something like this before, and its kind of terrifying to think we were across the street from everything a few minutes before,” Sutton added.

Raddatz, who now lives in New York City, was baffled at why anyone might want to bomb the marathon.

“It’s a very, very joyful day in Boston, and people look forward to it all year long,” she said.

“They had a moment of silence for all of the victims of Sandy Hook, which is very powerful because the whole field of runners – 27,000 runners – was instantly silent,” she added.

“It was just incredible.”

Raddatz was in Washington on 9/11, but said Monday in Boston was different.

“This is just people coming together and appreciating the joy of sport,” she said. “It’s hard for me to comprehend how people could target that. It’s just so pure.”