Austin Reacts to Boston Marathon Bombings (Update)
Update (9:14 p.m.): Close to 200 people from Central Texas are in Boston for Monday's marathon, according to the marathon's athlete tracker. Explosions near the finish line, which claimed at least three lives and reverberated across the nation, sent Austinites scrambling to check on the status of family and friends participating in the race.
“We were texting people, emailing them," said Michael Madison, a business manager with the local running group Gilbert’s Gazelles, who was back here in Austin. "We were just keeping tabs on who had said they were okay or who they were with, because we had a couple people staying at the hotel where the first blast came out of.”
Gilbert's Gazelles is a group of Austin runners led by Gilbert Tuhabonye, a former NCAA All American whose experience as a survivor of genocide in his native Burundi is an inspiration to his team. One of the members who traveled to Boston is Bonnie Yesian, who had finished the race when she heard the explosions.
“We heard the bomb go off and everybody kind of – it just seemed like 5 seconds everybody just kind of stood around and within that 5 seconds after that everyone started running a little bit and then five seconds after that another one went off.”
Yesian’s hotel is right by the finish line. She was waiting for word about when she could get her belongings before deciding whether to take her Tuesday morning flight back to Texas.
Alicia Sankar is another member of the group who traveled to Boston for the marathon.
“People try all their lives to qualify to be in Boston,” she says. “You have to qualify to run Boston, unless you are a charity runner, and they don’t take many of those.”
She says an air of celebration characterized the morning, as runners from Austin shared a bus en route to the starting line. “Everybody was talking about the race and cutting up,” she says.
Sankar had already crossed the finish line when the explosions came.
Among her concerns: what happened to spectators.
“People work so hard, but the people who are coming to watch you compete in this human endeavor that we put ourselves through – and those are the people who were affected.”
Rogue Running, another Austin running group with athletes at the Boston Marathon, posted on Facebook that all of its members are safe.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo issued this statement Monday evening:
"The Austin Police Department, in coordination with our State and Federal partners, are closely monitoring the events surrounding the Boston Marathon. Although there is no specific threat directed toward the Austin area, the department has been placed on a heightened operational status in response to this mass-casualty event. Residents are reminded to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity, items, vehicles or individuals to law enforcement. We urge all of our business and public entity partners to review their suspicious package and bomb threat procedures with all of their employees."
A live blog from NPR is chronicling the latest developments.
Check-In Sites Proliferating (4:55 p.m.):
On Facebook, Rogue Running looks to have all or close to all of its runners accounted for.
Other sites have sprung up for marathoners to register as safe or search for someone:
One Austin Running Group All Accounted For (4:29 p.m.):
Alicia Sankar is with Gilbert’s Gazelles, one of the Austin running groups participating in the marathon today. She just spoke with KUT News, confirming that all 48 runners in the group were accounted for.
“I’ve been in the process of making sure that anybody that was in the third wave [of runners] or behind that was OK,” Sankar says. “I figure most people that were in the first or second wave, if they were having a good day, they probably already were finished – it would’ve been anybody that in the third wave that could’ve been affected.”
An Austin Runner's Experience (4:19 p.m.):
Austin runner William Greer is participating in the Boston Marathon today. He was the subject of a KUT News story earlier today – Greer is legally blind and his guide today was NPR’s Peter Sagal. The two crossed the finish line just minutes before the explosions.
We were going to get our medals when we heard the explosions,” Greer says. “We heard two of them. Peter said he saw while smoke coming off of one of them. Literally no one knew what was going on for a long time.”
Statement from Gov. Perry (3:57 p.m.):
Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement about the explosions at the Boston Marathon today – saying it is a “sobering vision, especially for those who have friends or loved ones competing in today’s race. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those injured in the explosions, along with the first responders who braved danger to help get the wounded to safety.”
Altogether, there are more than 800 runners from across Texas participating in the marathon.
Online Check-Ins for Austin Runners (3:40 p.m.):
With cell phone signals reportedly jammed over Boston, there’s alternative check-ins online.
On social media, users point to the marathon’s Mobile Athlete Track as a way to check a runner’s last check in.
Original Story (3:40 p.m.): Hundreds of Austin runners were participating in the Boston Marathon. Nearly 190 runners with an Austin address are listed on the official marathon website. The Austin American-Statesman puts the number of Austin runners, including surrounding areas, at over 200.