East Tennessee runners describe terror of the Boston bomb attack

East Tennessee runners describe terror of the Boston bomb attack

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More than 23,000 runners took part in the Boston Marathon Monday, including dozens from East Tennessee. More than 23,000 runners took part in the Boston Marathon Monday, including dozens from East Tennessee.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – More than 23,000 runners took part in the Boston Marathon Monday, including dozens from East Tennessee.

Many local runners and their family members witnessed the bomb blasts first hand.

"As I heard the explosion and turned around, I could see very clearly the smoke rising and I saw the second explosion. It was just a very few minutes after I finished," UT veterinary professor Ralph Harvey said.

Just next to Harvey was Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd.

"Sometimes they shoot cannons after these things, and it just seemed inappropriately loud and shook the ground. I turned over my shoulder and saw the smoke rising above the finish line and about that time the next blast went off," Boyd said.

Boyd says he was just 200 yards from the blast.

For many runners, the Boston Marathon is their dream race. Many have trained for years but nothing could have prepared them for the tragedy as they crossed the finish line.

"We were all standing there literally right across the street from the blast," Bobby Holcombe, a coach for Knoxville Endurance.

Bobby Holcombe was there coaching five Knoxville runners in the marathon. One of his athletes had just crossed the finish line when the bombs went off.

"It was right behind her, and then we she turned around she actually visibly saw the second blast," Holcombe said.

She was uninjured but shaken.

"She went and grabbed her husband and her son, and she said, ‘I saw it all,' and that's when we really comprehended what the heck really went down," said Holcombe.

He said there was a panic at the staging area. He didn't see the injured, but he heard from those around him.

"We were hearing on the street there were limbs on the finish line," he said, describing the gruesome scene.

Boyd said the scariest part was not knowing what would happen next.

"The biggest concern was, was this the start of a series of things? Or the only thing we would experience?" Boyd said.

Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton was just a block from the blast waiting for his wife to cross the finish line.

"When I saw the gray smoke I knew it was a bomb of some sort. When I saw the explosion and the ground, it shook so violently," Stockton said.

For him, the scariest part was the hour he and his wife spent searching for each other.

"It was terrifying," Tara Stockton said. "I had tickets for him to sit where the explosion went off, but we decided to give them away."

She was at mile marker 25 and didn't see the blast, but knew something was wrong when she saw National Guard soldier running in formation.

"I saw them run and group together, and that made me suspicious, I knew something was happening. Then the whole course started getting crowded with non-runners and that just don't happen," she explained.

Monday was supposed to be Tara Stockton's sixteenth and final marathon.

"It's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime-type run," she said.

Holcombe said this was not the memory his runners were supposed to have of the race. 

"This is the granddaddy of them all, this marathon. There's no other marathon like this one and when you get your dreams just thrown away, they're irrelevant because what has happened today," Holcombe said.

But for them and the thousands of other runners, their dream race, turned into a nightmare.

"It's beyond sad," said Harvey. "It turned what is a wonderful celebration of the human spirit, the Boston marathon is extraordinary in that regard, and it turned that into a very sad and very tragic day."

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