By LIBBY CLUETT | Lone Star News Group
Weatherford resident Felicia Scott recalls “just trying to finish” Monday’s Boston Marathon before twin explosions, seconds apart, drew national and international attention to the 117th running of the historic race in what U.S. officials are calling an act of terrorism.
Scott was running in place of her mother, Mineral Wells resident Iris Stagner, who died last September when she was struck by a motorist while riding her bicycle across the Brazos River bridge on U.S. Highway 180 west of Mineral Wells.
Just days before, Stagner had received confirmation from the Boston Athletic Association that she was invited to run in the prestigious, invitational-only marathon.
Scott wanted to honor her mother by trying to run in the marathon. After submitting her request last fall, she received special permission from the BAA to take Stagner’s place in Monday’s race.
For the past four decades, Patriots’ Day in Boston and New England has been celebrated on the third Monday in April.
A public holiday, thousands of people typically line the streets of the 26.21-mile Boston Marathon route as they did Monday, according to Scott’s stepfather, Butch Stagner, of Mineral Wells, who was there to cheer on Scott.
Scott was among more than 26,000 runners in the race, including more than 900 from Texas. The blasts have so far left three people dead and injured more than 170, including 17 critically, with some suffering loss of limbs.
Scott said she was near the 24-mile mark, running along Beacon Street, in Brookline, Mass., before she was stopped. She said officials “closed the whole marathon at the 22-mile mark,” but added that she and about 30 other runners were already past this point and kept running.
“It was confusing,” she said, noting at one point someone told them officials had moved the finish line.
When the group of runners Scott was in was stopped, they were taken to a nearby church, where they could use their cell phones and wait until transportation came.
She said there was no heat in the church and temperatures Monday were in the 50s. Clothed in running tights, a short-sleeved running shirt and a ball cap, she said she got cold and sought a warmer place to wait.
“I met some kids who went to a college (nearby) and they walked me over to a Holiday Inn where it was warm,” she said. “They were really nice.”
The hotel where she was waiting helped her arrange for a taxi. She said they also set up a TV so people could watch the latest news, after two powerful bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three spectators, including an 8-year-old boy, and injuring more than 170 people.
At this point, she said she was a bit “freaked out and I just wanted to get back to my hotel.”
Scott said most of the runners stopped at mile 22 were bussed to the Boston Commons – not quite a mile from the Copley Square finish line, where the bombings occurred.
In addition to Butch Stagner, Scott’s entourage included 18 friends and family, mostly from Weatherford, Brock, Mineral Wells and Arlington. They watched her run and cheered her on at the 17-mile and 21-mile marks along the historic marathon route. None of Scott’s crew were at the finish line where the explosions occurred, nearly 4 hours and 10 minutes into the race.
“I was kind of thankful I wasn’t a faster runner,” Scott said. “My mother would have been up there and we would have all been at the finish line. It’s weird how things work.”
“I was just thankful,” she said.
Stagner, who left Boston Logan Airport Monday evening on a flight delayed about two hours, said, “Watching the news now, about three-fourths of what I heard [Monday] is not true. It’s real tragic about that little boy,” referring to the death of Martin Richard, 8, who was at the finish line to cheer on his father. His mother was hospitalized while his sister reportedly lost a leg in the first blast.
Stagner said his group was at the top of the marathon’s so-called “Heartbreak Hill,” near Boston College in Newton, Mass. He said they were about 5 miles from the blast.
“We couldn’t feel or hear anything,” he said of the blasts. “There are so many people running and they had friends on the side who were screaming [for the runners] and we couldn’t hear anything.”
“We were watching for Felicia to come by and just before she came up we could see police officers jumping on motorcycles and running downhill,” he said.
“Felicia came up [and continued running the course] by the time we realized something had happened,” said Stagner, which he estimated at about 15 minutes after people around him first talked about the explosions.
Stagner added that he saw law enforcement from the many towns around Boston rushing by.
“Traffic was terrible all over town,” he added. “A lot of people were trying to get out of town.”
Scott left Boston Logan International Airport Tuesday, around 1:30 p.m. Eastern time. She called the atmosphere at the airport “pretty normal.” But she added that the Boston Police Department staffed the airport with investigators “asking runner questions if they knew anything.”
Other runners quickly posted messages to friends and family to let them know of their safety, including Willow Park’s Greg Takacs.
“Thinking of all the people who were killed and hurt in yesterday’s events,” Takacs wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday morning, one day after posting that he was OK following the aftermath.
“We can’t let this get to us, but that doesn’t mean no compassion. I’m really saddened, but I’m positive this will only make Boston BBA and runners stronger.”
The annual marathon is significant to Bostonians and New Englanders, not only for its prestige and that it marks a public holiday, but because it honors Patriots’ Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the first battles of the Revolutionary War that took place at Lexington and Concord, Mass., on April 19, 1775.
Weatherford Democrat Assistant News Editor Sally Sexton contributed to this report.