, Newburyport, MA

April 16, 2013

Local residents witness Marathon blast: 'Everyone just froze'

For local runners, excitement turns to horror

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — John Peterson, a sixth-grade teacher at Page School in West Newbury, had finished the Boston Marathon and was walking toward the shuttle buses for runners when he looked back and witnessed an explosion. Seconds later, there was another.

“Everyone just froze and looked at each other and we all said, ‘That cannot be good at all.’ We looked back and saw it happened at the finish line,” Peterson said in an e-mail last night. “After that everyone was most concerned (about) getting to family members to make sure everyone was alright. There were a lot of tears on my walk back.”

“That was my main concern,” Peterson added. “I knew my sister was ahead of me in wave 1 ... but wanted to get back to the Copley to make sure the rest of my family was alright. I have never been involved in anything close to this ... I was glad my family was OK, and my thoughts and prayers go out to the people at the finish line at the time of the explosion.

“I got upstairs to my room to over 100 emails and texts to make sure I was alright. It was crazy,” he wrote.

Asked whether the possibility of another deadly explosion would deter him from running the marathon again, Peterson said there was no chance he’d miss it.

“It was an amazing experience from start to finish. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who were hurt. You don’t want these great experiences to be ruined by certain crazy people out there. It is a tragedy, but to stop running an event like Boston would make these individuals win. Almost like getting back on a plane after 9/11,” Peterson said.

Another marathon finisher, Karen Durante of Newburyport, said via phone that she was back at her room inside the Park Plaza Hotel when she caught the news. Durante said she had crossed the finish line approximately 30 minutes previously.

“I don’t even know if we can get out of the city,” Durante said, about two hours after the explosions. “It’s horrific, it’s just horrific.”

Amesbury resident Matt Solazzo completed the 26.2 mile race roughly 10 minutes before the two explosions in Copley Square.

“I was probably a block away,” Solazzo said. “I had just found my wife, and we heard two blasts. Both of our parents were there, so we scrambled to find them. We had no idea what happened. A woman came out of the Prudential Center and freaked everyone out. She said, ‘Why isn’t everyone running? Two bombs just went off.’”

Solazzo and his family hustled to their cars in a parking garage in Boston Common. They headed north for Amesbury before sorting out the details of the tragedy.

“It put a huge damper on the day,” Solazzo said. “I heard 5,000 people couldn’t finish the race. They put a lot of effort into qualifying and raising money. There were a couple of fatalities, more people injured. It puts a black mark on the whole thing.”

Rick Bayko, the owner of Yankee Runner in Newburyport, said between 40 and 50 marathoners from the Greater Newburyport area had met at the Winner’s Circle in Salisbury yesterday morning for a chartered bus to Boston. Minutes after the explosions, his store became flooded with calls from people wondering if their family members were all right.

“This is just incredible. I’m stunned, of course,” Bayko said.

Bayko said he had been fearful of such an incident taking place at the Boston Marathon for decades.

“It took a while, but someone actually did it,” Bayko said.

Sports editor Dan Guttenplan contribute to this report.