Runners recall horror at Boston Marathon

Joe McConnell%%More Content Now News
Dave DeFilippo, who ran in Monday’s Boston Marathon, is shown with his three children, from left, David Jr., Joseph and Gianna.

It took probably just four minutes, but in that short period of time David DeFilippo’s view of the world around him changed forever.

DeFilippo, a Reading resident since 2000, made it across the Boston Marathon finish line after completing the 26.3-mile course from Hopkinton to Boston in 4 hours, 3 minutes, 30 seconds, and was walking casually to the water stand to get some needed refreshment when he heard an explosion. He looked back and saw a lot of smoke, with flames shooting up everywhere. His immediate thoughts were centered on his family.

“The sound was so intense that I first thought about where my wife and two of my kids were,” said DeFilippo, 47, referring to wife Gina and children Gianna, 9, and Joseph, 6.

“I was hoping they weren’t at the finish line. My wife never wants to be near the finish line, because of the crowds, and I was hoping that would be the case this time. We talked about meeting up with each other in front of the CVS, and that’s where I found them. She thought maybe a transformer blew up, but I knew it couldn’t be that, because the noise was too loud.”

While walking to the family car in Park Square, they asked a police officer his opinion on what just happened, and he told them there were two pipe bombs that detonated.

“I’ll never forget the panic on everybody’s face, and the image of my kids hysterically crying.”

DeFilippo has an older son, David, Jr., who wasn’t at the Boston Marathon, but he too was affected by the horrific event. He never thought his kids would be witnesses to a terrorist attack, especially at an event like the Boston Marathon.

“The Boston Marathon is such a beautiful event, and there are no better running fans like here in Boston. It’s just senseless, and for what,” he said.

Following the explosion, a runner in front of DeFilippo, with his eyes closed, started praying, and everybody was moving quickly to get out of harm’s way.

“It’s easy to talk about it now, because we made it home safely,” DeFilippo said.

But the day’s events still lingered for his three kids. They needed the security of mom and dad, who devised new sleeping arrangements to provide them all the comforts of home. They also made sure they gave each of them an extra hug.

After the race and before the day’s events unfolded, DeFilippo lamented about the fact that it was his worst time ever as a marathon veteran. He has participated in six marathons, and this year was his third time running Boston. Last year, he dropped out at the 22-mile mark, because of heat exhaustion, and went to the Beth Israel Hospital for treatment. In 2011, he finished under four hours at 3:52.

He said he would like to continue running, knowing that security will be increased, but he’ll make sure his family stays away out of safety concerns.

Ironic finish

Brock Fay, 35, made it across the finish line at approximately 2:11 p.m., some 30 minutes before the first of two pipe bombs went off Monday afternoon. He sought out his family in the bleachers, and talked with them for 10 to 15 minutes before picking up his medal after completing the course in 3:23:26. He was in the Westin Copley Hotel, where he met up again with his mom, wife, Jessica, and a friend, when they heard the loud blast. They wasted little time getting into their car and leaving the city.

Brock’s in-laws were in the Lenox Hotel when it happened, but they managed to get out and walk to North Station, and beat him back to Reading on the commuter train. A cousin was within a mile of finishing the marathon, before race officials stopped it. Another friend did finish, only five minutes before the nightmare.

“There was a stream of positive energy and encouragement coming from the 10,000 or so volunteers along the route throughout the day, and then it was pretty ironic what happened afterwards,” said Fay, a vice president of sales and account management for CareScout in Waltham.

It was Fay’s first official marathon, and he ran it for the Newton Boys & Girls Club, raising over $6,000 in pledges. He was in the third wave of runners, and admittedly he started too fast, and paid the price for it with a slower finish. But his performance took a backseat to an attack that shook the world.

“It was a tremendous race, and a great day, but all of it turned out to be insignificant compared to this tragedy,” said the Central Catholic High School and UNH graduate.

Boston Marathon will recover

Joseph Hagan, 49, running with the Boston Athletic Association team, completed his third marathon, second Boston, in 3:38:31. He crossed the finish line around 1:30 p.m. before going to the BAA tent in front of the Trinity Church with other team members. His wife and two of his four children were in a store on Clarendon Street. Then, the first of the two pipe bombs went off.

Hagan, a director for planning and analysis at Aspen Technology in Burlington, was not allowed to leave the tent for 20 minutes, but once out he borrowed a friend’s cell phone to call his wife to make arrangements on a meeting place, where they walked to his wife’s sister’s apartment nearby. They stayed there until 5 p.m., before heading back to Reading.

“We eventually picked up the car service we used for the day at Charlesgate West near Kenmore Square, because there were so many streets blocked off,” said Hagan, who has resided in Reading since he was 12. 

“ATF agents were all over the place, and military people were directing vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Storrow Drive was packed, but we went on Memorial Drive, which turned out to be a much better route. Before leaving Boston, people were literally waving cash to anybody in cars just to get out of the city,” added Hagan. “It was so sad, and it ruined a great family event.”

Hagan started running when he was a student at UMass-Amherst, but gave it up to start a family. He eventually got back into it 10 years ago, and only became a marathon runner the last three.

“The [Boston Marathon] is such a great event. Everybody wants to run Boston,” he said. “This was so senseless, but I’m sure [the marathon] will recover. And I’m determined to run more than ever after they tried to deter us from our way of life."