by Aaron Burns and Jackson Sveen
CORNELIUS – President Barack Obama called the horrible actions this week at the Boston Marathon that took at least three lives and injured more than 100 others "an act of terrorism."
Two pressure-cooker bombs exploded during the April 15 marathon with Lake Norman-area residents nearby, some of whom were race participants.
Cornelius Commissioner Jeff Hare was one of them. He completed his first Boston Marathon. Bear Robinson, owner of Huntersville-based Hardcore Serious Fitnesss, also participated in the race, Boston's 117th.
Hare completed the race a few minutes before the four-hour mark. The first bomb exploded around four hours and nine minutes into the race.
Prior to the explosions, Hare said the race was going smoothly.
“It was just a gorgeous day in Boston,” he said. “A perfect marathon day.”
More than 27,000 people from around the world competed in Monday's marathon. It was also Patriot’s Day, a school holiday for children who lined the route to give high fives to the runners.
Hare was in the finishing area, where runners are given water, food and medals, when he heard an explosion.
“No one really made a big deal out of it,” he said. “We couldn’t see the smoke from where we were and it almost seemed like part of the overall celebratory feel to the event."
It wasn’t until a little while later that Hare and those around him began hearing rumors about bombs. Hare said “it really got pretty chaotic” at that point.
Robinson was even closer. He started the race at 10 a.m. with the first wave, and finished at 1 p.m.
"Everything was very normal, as I would have expected," he said.
He reunited with his party 30 minutes after he finished, then headed toward the MBTA train station at Hynes Convention Center, near the area of the second explosion.
"(By the) best of my calculations, we were standing directly across from the second blast area about 15 minutes before it actually happened," Robinson said. "By the time we rode the train back to our hotel and arrived at the hotel, it was all over the news."
Hare recalled a harrowing scene as rescue efforts began.
“We saw people starting to scramble for their loved ones because no one really knew where they were,” he said. “(The finish area) was totally away from where my hotel was, which was right next to the finish line, and my wife was over there.”
It took about an hour for Hare to get to his wife, and at that point, they weren’t being allowed back in their hotel.
“It was really pretty chaotic and hard to get around,” Hare said. “They were at the point where they had to assume bombs were everywhere. They basically just directed people to move away from the area. You couldn’t go anywhere.”
Hare was able to get a flight back to North Carolina, but wore his running clothes on the plane because he was unable to retrieve his luggage from the hotel.
“(It was) just amazing how they all of a sudden brought in hundreds of ambulances,” Hare said. “I think that the reaction time of the local authorities was really great. They had police and fire and rescue there in really no time and they probably saved a few lives. I think it could have been a lot more.”
Because of the race's distance – 26.2 miles – there was a mass of emergency personnel at the race and near the finish line to treat exhaustion, cramps and leg injuries.
While he was in the race, Hare said he helped a woman cross the finish because her legs were no longer working due to exhaustion.
“People really push themselves with heroic efforts to finish the marathon,” which Hare said was “in such a contrast” to the “cowardice of this act.”
Robinson said the entire city was on lockdown the remainder of the evening, by choice.
"When we ventured into the city (the next morning), there were police, federal agents and military oversaturating the streets for the safety of Boston," he said, adding the same scene was at Logan International Airport that afternoon. FBI and Boston police are still trying to determine who is responsible for the explosions.
Robinson returned home April 16. His work as a personal trainer had him in ideal shape for the race.
"The Boston Athletic Association does a very good job with putting on such an event," he said.
Hare said the marathon, ordinarily a source of pride, shouldn't have been reduced to a tragic scene.
“It was just the worst event to try to make any sort of statement,” Hare said. “So why someone would do that is just unbelievable.”