By Maddie Keenlyside/JOURNAL PIONEER
SUMMERSIDE – On Monday, the Boston Marathon will run again, undeterred by the act of terrorism that took place at the finish line last year.
Though some Islanders will be returning to the legendary running event, while others have decided to watch from afar.
Summerside’s Scott Clark has participated in the marathon for years, and participated in the 2013 marathon. On April 21, he will be running in his eighth Boston Marathon, a fabled event “like the Masters of golf,” he said.
It’s a family event for him and his wife, who has accompanied him there every year.
As fate would have it, his family chose not to stay down by the finish line – where both bombs went off – that day in 2013, he said.
“It all comes down to timing.”
Clark had passed the finish line nearly three hours into the event, long before any sign of trouble, but earlier than other runners.
By the time the bombs went off, Clark and his family were back at the hotel about a half-kilometre away, waiting for a friend.
When emergency vehicles started storming by, he knew something was wrong. Word started to filter to them, and news coverage followed instantly.
But it was hard to comprehend, he said.
“We were a bit frantic, trying to get in touch with my friend who was still down near the finish line. I know every Islander that was down there, we’re a pretty tightly-knit community.”
Clark said his friend eventually sent them a text message that he was OK and trying to work his way back up through the crowd.
Just a half-hour before the explosions, fellow runner Brenda Benson, also from Summerside, was still feeling the buzz of finishing the marathon. When she got back to her hotel room, her phone started to ring.
People from back home were calling, wondering if she was OK.
“Until that point, I hadn’t heard anything or noticed anything, and it wasn’t until I was aware that something was going on that I could hear the sirens.”
Though there are crowds throughout the whole route of the marathon, Boylston Street is where the finish line is. As soon as you hit the 25-mile mark, you can start to hear the roar of the crowds, she said.
It’s also where the bombs went off.
“If they were trying to make evil grow, they couldn’t have picked a worse spot. There’s so much great energy right there.”
After hearing the news, everything just changed, Benson said.
“The first thing we all did, we were all trying to connect to each other just to make sure we were all OK.”
Normally after the Boston Marathon everyone’s celebrating, wearing their medals and having a good evening. At least they were safe, but it was a night of fearful waiting, and she just wanted to get back to Canada, Benson said.
It was made worse by the fact that no one knew what was going on, or whether another bomb would go off.
All evening, she kept waking up and saying they should head down to the main floor, she said.
“At that point, your mind is starting to go, is this is terrorism?
“You start thinking of 9/11, thinking OK, I’m in a high-rise here. The whole night, I didn’t sleep.”
She and her training partner went down to the main floor of the lobby. That’s when the emotion of it all really started to hit, she said.
“There were families still there, waiting for their runners that had been stuck on the course, so you started to see them be reunited.”
As realization set in, a heavy sadness started to take over, she said.
“Then fear hit, and anger. You’re just mad that this could happen.”
Benson said she thinks about Martin Richard and his sister all the time. Richard was only eight years old when he was killed by the Boston bombing last year, and his little sister, Jane, lost a leg.
“They just stay with you, constantly.”
Her two young children were back at home in P.E.I., and she just wanted to get home to them, she said.
Though Benson loves the marathon, she won’t be returning this year.
“I decided to just witness it from afar this year.”
Benson said she often wonders what would have happened if she lost a leg.
“I’m just amazed by all the people that have lost limbs. They’ve kept going, and they’ve conquered all these milestones already.”
And she’s sure it hasn’t been an easy year for them..
“Being so close to such evil – well, you see it on TV, but to be so close to it you just realize how vulnerable we all are.”