Physicians and staff members from the Academic Health Center who returned from Monday’s Boston Marathon brought strong and emotional memories with them after living through a day in which two bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring more than 170.
Christina Mackell and Andrea Sitlinger, fourth-year students in the College of Medicine, started the race together and had both finished by the time the explosions occurred. Mackell, in a telephone interview, said she had just gotten her finisher’s medal and was walking through the family area just past the finish line.
"Coming around a corner, I heard a really loud boom and saw the smoke rising,” she said. At first, people got really quiet, and it was eerie. We thought maybe it was fireworks from the Red Sox game, or a cannon.” (The race is held annually on Patriots’ Day, a civic holiday commemorating the Revolutionary War battles of Lexington and Concord.)
"Then somebody came by and said, "Be on the lookout; explosives just went off.”
Mackell said the people of Boston were "awesome” during the race, "more than any marathon I’ve done,” and incredibly supportive.
"I really think that’s why no one realized it was a bomb,” she wrote in a follow-up email. "How anyone could attack an event that brings people of all nationalities and ages together is beyond me.
"A Brazilian man gave Andrea and me his coat when we were cold in the waiting area, even though we could barely communicate with him.
"Everyone who was competing and watching supported each other, and that is what is so sad about this attack, but also why it won’t matter. (One person) will never change an event like this, and what it means to so many people.”
Mackell and Sitlinger (who will serve their residencies at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Duke University Medical Center, respectively) were among several people with UC Academic Health Center connections who were in Boston Monday. Others included:
Alison Delgado, MD, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center: Delgado, a 2009 graduate of the College of Medicine and former pediatrics department resident, made national headlines in 2011 with her story of survival from a bicycling accident that included her husband, Tim, being dispatched to treat her only to discover that the unidentified victim was his wife. An avid runner, she was in Boston with Tim, a resident in the emergency medicine department, and finished the race before the bombs exploded.
"We had left the finishing area about 45 minutes earlier and were having lunch about half a mile away,” she said in a telephone interview. "We found out about the bombs when someone next to us started getting texts about it.
"We let our parents know and posted on Facebook. We also got a lot of texts and emails from people asking, ‘Are you OK?’, but they had a better idea of what was going on than we did.”
Sarah Stark, clinical research coordinator, emergency medicine department, who earned a master’s in health promotion and education from UC in 2003: Stark had finished the race and was back in her hotel room about two miles from the finish line when the explosions occurred. "I didn’t know anything was going on until my dad called from Cincinnati and asked if I was OK and safe,” she wrote in an email.
"He was the one who told me about the explosions and then we turned on the TV and began watching the news for the next two and a half hours,” added Stark, who was traveling with Shaun Keegan, PharmD, a pharmacist in the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit at UC Medical Center.
"I felt paralyzed in my hotel room, not really knowing what to do. Family and friends were calling, texting, Facebooking nonstop to ensure we were OK.”
Bill Fussinger, executive director for business and administration, departments of emergency medicine and otolaryngology–head and neck surgery: Fussinger was in Boston to support his wife, Kathleen, who was running her 13th Boston Marathon, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. He said in a telephone interview that he was about a quarter-mile away from the finish line when the blasts occurred, and she was about a mile away. Both saw the smoke from the explosions.
"The thing that impressed me was the way the police took charge,” he said. I was also impressed with the quick response—we must have seen 30 to 40 ambulances.”
Fussinger said his wife was in the Dorchester neighborhood when the race was halted. "People were very nice,” he said. "They came out with food and drinks.”
Ken Tegtmeyer, MD, pediatrics department, and division of critical care, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center: Tegtmeyer was registered—it would have been his seventh straight Boston Marathon—but did not race due to injury. Still, he was in Massachusetts Monday because his daughter, Izzy, was visiting prep schools. They stayed with a relative of his wife, Danna Premer, MD, a neonatologist at Cincinnati Children’s.
"While Izzy was visiting classes … I excitedly watched the race on-line, and texted with friends on the course,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
"Izzy and I then started driving home … and shortly after 3 p.m. my phone started going crazy with texts, FB messages, emails and calls asking if I was OK. It made me realize how much the marathon means to me, that so many people instantly thought of me when they heard the terrible news.
"At the same time, the thoughts of those injured, both the spectators and the runners, and of the first responders and medical teams and the horror that they were dealing with led to an emotional long ride home.”