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April 17, 2013

Area man: Blast victims 'banded together'

Otego volunteer was at finish line

By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star

---- — The timing couldn’t have been worse when two bombs tore through the crowds at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, according to an Otego man who has been volunteer at the race for 22 years.

“Having run in marathons myself and being an average marathoner, we know that probably the most populated time of the race was right about the time that this all happened, because it’s when most of the average runners come in,” said Harry Tripp, 68, who has spent the last 12 years working from a lifeguard’s chair near the finish line to direct runners to water, blankets or family-rendezvous spots.

“We’re looking at anywhere from a thousand to 1,500 people a minute coming through the finish line,” he said. “So it really was the most-crowded time of the run.”

“My guess would be whoever did this was well aware this was probably a time that would be the most populated.”

Tripp estimated he was about 120 yards from the site of the first blast, working with another volunteer.

“I’ve been through earthquakes before — I come from California — and this basically felt like a small tremor,” he said by phone Tuesday.

“Initially, we looked at each other and we were aware that, perhaps a month ago, there was a gas explosion in (Boston’s) Back Bay that was caused by the gas company,” he added.

Tripp a semi-retired telecommunications engineer and former marathoner and triathlete, said that when the second blast occurred, he and his partner immediately abandoned the lifeguard chair, whose seat is 7 feet off the ground.

“At that point in time, people — not just the thousands that were passing the finish line, but … all of the onlookers that were up in the grandstands — were coming at us,” he said. “We were looking at probably two or three thousand people trying to get away from the blast area.”

“We’re seeing people suffering with cuts on arms, legs, head, just totally unbelievable,” he added.

Tripp described the Boston Marathon as an event when — until Monday — 26,000 runners from all over the world, plus tens of thousands of spectators – could forget its troubles for a few hours and just run.

“It’s the pinnacle of marathoning,” he said. “Everybody wants to at least do that race. In a time of all international political things that are going on, it’s a point in time when everybody set everything aside, and they come to celebrate running.”

And that camaraderie survived.

“The more and more that we saw what was going on, people had banded together and taken care of each other (amid) the chaos that was going on,” he said. “Everybody was trying to help everybody else.”

“My wife doesn’t concur with me,” he said. “But I’ll be there for my 23rd year.”