RYE, N.Y. – Rye runner Tim O’Toole was about half a mile away from the Boston Marathon finish line when the two bombs went off Monday afternoon.
He and his group of seven runners experienced “two hours of sheer fright” as they scrambled to find each other, get out of harm’s way and let their families know they were all right.
“After the first explosion, we didn’t really know what it was. The ground shook and we felt it. Then we saw the smoke and it started to dawn on us. Then the second one went off.”
O’Toole was part of a group that included Trish Muccia, Adam Gibbs and Chris Daly, all of Rye, William Miller and Michael Iuliano, of Port Chester, and Julio German, of Larchmont. None of them were hurt in the blasts, but O’Toole said their experiences will live with them.
“It’s so surreal, it keeps running through all of our minds,” he said. “We know about the suffering going on. We were privy to it, it’s enormous. That’s something that’s etched in our minds forever.”
O’Toole is the director of men’s basketball operations at Syracuse University. Growing up in the area, he said he always felt like a part of the Boston family.
“Every step along this race, you felt like a part of that family. And for it to end the way it did, I can’t imagine how horrific it must be for all those people who lost loved ones or were maimed. It’s catastrophic on so many levels.”
A parent of three, O’Toole said it was difficult for him to talk to his children afterwards and try to explain what happened, especially because there are so few answers as to who set off the bombs and why. He hasn’t been able to on the news to watch the ongoing coverage of the bombings.
“When I saw the paper the next day, I immediately started crying. I can’t even turn ESPN on.”
He hopes that the race goes on. Before the blasts went off, he remembers seeing people running in support of causes, blind people running with guides, runners with prosthetic limbs.
“It’s an unbelievably special event. It’s about life, it’s about love, it’s about hope, It’s about pushing yourself,” he said. “There were so many courageous people out there.”
He hadn’t planned on running the marathon again, but said he would definitely run it next year in honor of the victim of the bombings.
“Any way I can support those families and honor the memory of those people who were killed or injured, I want to. Those memories can never be forgotten.”
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