'Nobody said a word'

Shawn Garrison%%More Content Now News
Diana Stauffer, Stacy Scalfaro and Alison Hatfield (from left) pose for a photo seconds before the explosions at the Boston Marathon Monday. The three, all local high school graduates, finished 14 minutes prior to the explosions and were celebrating a few streets away when the blasts occurred. The three runners and their families and friends were uninjured.

It wasn’t the blasts that floored Diana Stauffer but the silence.

Stauffer was one of a handful of Missouri runners to compete in Monday’s Boston Marathon, which was rocked by two bombs that killed three people and injured more than 140 in what a White House official said was being treated as an act of terrorism.

Stauffer ran the race with two of her friends, Ali Hatfield and Stacy Scalfaro, who all finished the race in 3 hours and 54 minutes. Fifteen minutes later, the first of the bombs went off near the finish line. By that point, the three had met up with their friends and family about a block and a half away in the reunion area and were posing for pictures holding their race medals.

Then a loud boom preceded mass confusion.

“It was so eerie,” Stauffer, who was accompanied by her husband, Lee Stauffer, said by phone Monday night. “After the first bomb went off, there were just thousands of people completely silent and all just looking at each other. Nobody said a word.”

Initially, Stauffer said she and many bystanders tried to explain the situation away. Monday was Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts, so maybe there were fireworks to celebrate.

Then the second bomb detonated, and legions of ambulances soon sped past blaring sirens.

“In my heart, I knew what I heard was not OK,” said Hatfield. “Then it was just panic and we stated walking and made sure we kept together. I’m not even sure we were going in the right direction.”

Many thoughts raced through their minds. Lee Stauffer said the hair on his neck immediately stood up and his first thought was that they needed to get away from the mob of people in case there was another attack.

“I pictured 9/11; you see one plane and then the second plane,” said Scalfaro, who was with her husband, Jeff Scalfaro. “I kept thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what if another one goes off?’ You try to think of what you would do in that situation and then suddenly you’re just trapped. You can’t run, you can’t get in a cab.”

Eventually, the group – which also included Hatfield’s parents, Mark and Nancy Hatfield and boyfriend Ramsey Mohsen – made their way back to the Copley Square Hotel, where they were staying. But after 45 minutes, all the hotel’s guests were quickly evacuated as a precaution.

That left thousands of runners and spectators, many who were still in running attire, stranded outside in 40-degree weather. Coming off a 26.2-mile run, they were tired, freezing, hungry and frightened.

“The Boston Marathon is just a historic event,” Scalfaro said. “We were running in the 117th race and part of history. In the race, you see a lot of the town of Boston and a lot of energy. Then you think how that energy turned to fear and chaos.”

But in the face of tragedy, many Bostonians came to the rescue. Some runners reportedly crossed the finish line and immediately took off to Massachusetts General Hospital to donate blood to the victims. Scalfaro recalled a woman and her terrified 8-year-old daughter approaching them to offer assistance.

“She said she wanted to be a model to show her daughter to help people,” Scalfaro said. “Her daughter was clearly scared. It was very touching.”

A woman in a wheelchair passed out blankets and local residents opened up their homes so the stranded runners and spectators could warm up and use the restroom. Eventually, the group found shelter with a woman named Margaret, who invited them in and passed out food and drinks.

“People who don’t think kindness exists need to come to Boston and see some Bostonians,” Diana Stauffer said. “Strangers were willing to take us into their home.”

As the commotion gradually calmed, the women started realizing how narrowly they escaped disaster. Fifteen minutes, the time separating their finish and the explosion, is a flash in marathon running. Before the race, the three agreed to stick together and finish at the same time. What if they had stopped to pose for pictures? What if one of them wore down and couldn’t make it to the finish?

“We pray a lot before we run,” Stauffer said. “And before the race we said, ‘Put wings on the back of our shoes. Carry us where we need to be carried.’ He did.”

After an hour and a half, they were finally allowed to return to their hotel. Hours later, even after surviving a marathon and a catastrophic tragedy, fatigue had yet to set in.

“After the race finished I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I cannot walk another step, my legs are so tired, I have blisters on my feet and I’m so hungry,’” Hatfield said. “But then you heard that blast and it was just instant survival mode.”

All three said they were stunned that a day that seemed so perfect just hours before could suddenly transform into such a calamity. But they also described how inspired they were by the kindness of the city. After finally settling into a warm hotel room to regroup, they turned their attention to those less fortunate.

“I’m praying,” Hatfield said, “and I want others to pray and send good thoughts to those not reunited who possibly lost loved ones or were injured by this – the people truly affected.”

From this view at the Copley Square Hotel, police and ambulances cover the streets in Boston after a pair of explosions rocked the city during the Boston Marathon. Three local runners, Diana Stauffer, Stacy Scalfaro and Alison Hatfield, has crossed the finish line where the blasts occurred just 14 minutes prior. The runners and their families, who were later evacuated from the hotel, were uninjured.