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Locals reflect on aftermath of Boston bombings

 

JENNA-LEY HARRISON

Staff Writer

 

As Boston law enforcement officials edge closer to solving the city’s recent tragedy, in which two bombs exploded during the annual marathon race Monday, killing three and injuring numerous others, those who witnessed the events are still in shock, including Lincoln County Probation and Parole officer Darren Turner and his daughter Morgan.

“It’s tougher than I thought it would be to come back (home),” he said. “I’m still a little rattled.”

Morgan, who was running in the 26.2 mile race, said she had sustained no injuries in the blasts and was less than 400 meters from the finish line when the first bomb exploded.

While she noted she saw smoke and had an uneasy feeling in her stomach, she tried to set her mind at ease by believing it was a celebratory cannon blast.

“I thought it was a cannon being shot off for Patriots Day at the finish line,” Morgan said.

Her father also spotted the ominous scene.

“We saw it all,” Darren said on Wednesday.

His initial thoughts, too, convinced him it was part of some sort of celebration — until the second blast occurred seconds later.

“Everyone stayed and stared, and runners kept running,” he said.

Following the second bomb, Darren knew the awful truth.

As he and his wife stood among the thousands of spectators, waiting for Morgan to come across the finish line, they were terrified.

“It was very scary,” he said.

Morgan, who was still running, also immediately knew her celebration theory was false, and with sirens filling the air, gathered something much worse was taking place.

“Police started streaming down to where we were,” she said. “No one had a clue what was going on.”

Runners were ordered to stop and told bombs had gone off at the finish line — where she said she would have been during the explosions had she not stopped to use the restroom at mile 25.

Panic began to set in as Morgan realized her parents told her before the race they would be waiting for her at the finish line.

About 15 minutes later, a person whose phone Morgan had borrowed to unsuccessfully call her parents received a text from Morgan’s mother that she was OK.

“I have never been so relieved to receive a text in my life,” she said.

The physical shock of the events, both the bombs and the long-distance run, took a toll on her body.

She experienced intense stomach and leg cramps and had trouble walking. It wasn’t long before a local woman, whom Morgan said felt the bomb shake her building, ran to her and another runner’s aid and wrapped them in blankets.

During that time, a race volunteer approached them with a box of medals, typically awarded to runners who complete the trek. The volunteer paused and took the time to place one each around Morgan and the other runner’s neck.

“She said that we would always be finishers to her and that we should consider ourselves such,” Morgan said.

After that touching moment, one of the women with the Lincolnton resident received a phone call from Morgan’s mother, stating her location amidst the chaos.

The woman ran to find Morgan’s mother and reunite her with her daughter. It had been nearly two-and-a-half hours since the blasts.

At that time, Morgan still had not found her father. Darren said he had gone running through the city for over an hour looking for a hotel where he thought she had gone. Turns out, the hotel had recently changed names, and his search was in vain.

“I ran from block to block and got 20 different answers to 20 different questions,” he said.

For a frightened father, Darren said that was the most difficult part of Monday’s events, not knowing the panic Morgan felt waiting to see her parents.

Morgan agreed.

“Those were the longest hours of my life,” she said.

Darren’s brother had been texting him Morgan’s location on the course during the entire race using a GPS tracking phone application provided by the Boston Athletic Association.

Friends and family at home in Lincolnton were doing the same, and after noticing she had stopped in the race, turned on the TV and saw the news, Morgan said.

After searching unsuccessfully for his daughter, Darren soon found local officers who guided him to a nearby park where various families had gathered.

Having served more than 25 years in law enforcement, he was most impressed by the reaction of police and other first-responders Monday.

“I’ve never seen a reaction like that,” he said. “I was completely blown away by their preparedness. They were running straight into the smoke.”

He was additionally touched by the women who comforted Morgan until he and his wife could get to her.

“They are the heroes in the story,” he said.

The Turner family now refers to the women as “Angel Savannah” and “Angel Donna.”

“They came out of their safe homes and attended to my daughter,” Darren said. “That’s miraculous to me. That’s heroic.”

One woman even took the family to the airport that evening.

While Darren has recounted his experience more times than the number of days since the blasts, it never tires him. Rather, it heals him.

“It’s therapeutic to rehash it,” he said.

Morgan noted how the “unreal” events resembled scenes out of a movie and still flash in her mind, but she’s found comfort in her Christian roots.

“God made everything fall into place that day to keep my family and me safe,” she said, “and provided us with two good Samaritans who helped us escape the chaos and get back home. It’s hard to understand why we survived and others didn’t, but I know it was in God’s plan.”

The individuals who didn’t survive included Martin Richard, 8, of Boston, Krystle Campbell, 29, of Medford, Mass., and Lu Lingzi, a Chinese graduate student at Boston University.

More than 170 others were injured.

As of Thursday, at least 60 remained in area hospitals, with a dozen still in critical condition, including a handful of children.

While FBI officials and local law enforcement officers have a suspect in mind, they have yet to make an arrest.

Surveillance footage from a nearby department store showed a man dropping off a backpack at the finish line. The backpack is similar in description to the one which housed the two bombs, made of pressure cookers and packed with BBs, glass and metal, investigators said.

The FBI has released photographs of two individuals they suspect of being involved in the bombing.

Despite the horrific memories which have forever scarred Darren and his family, among thousands of others, he hopes marathon officials will invite the same runners to race again next year.

“The person/people who did this will never, ever beat Boston or those who ran that day,” Morgan said. “We will be back and be stronger than ever.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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