Island neighbors and Marathoners escape injury in Boston

Bryan Garrison of Vineyard Haven took this photo of spectators and Marathon runners about 20 minutes before the first explosion just behind the flags to the right. The second explosion was just to the left of the photo. — Photo courtesy of Bryan Garrison

Updated 9:22 pm, Tuesday

Two Martha’s Vineyard competitors in the Boston Marathon are safe.

School administrator and Boston Marathon competitor Marylee Schroeder of West Tisbury, and Kim O’Callaghan, owner of Morrice Florist, narrowly escaped Monday’s twin bomb blasts at the Marathon finish line.

Fate also favored race spectators Bryan Garrison and his wife, Kim, of Vineyard Haven. They watched a friend run to the finish line from a vantage point just opposite the location of the second bomb and then walked to a prearranged meeting spot half a block distant.

On Tuesday, back home and at work in her florist shop on State Road, Ms. O’Callaghan, a veteran marathoner, said Monday’s horrific attack would not shake her resolve to run next year.

“Oh, I’m definitely doing it, and a buddy of mine is in Kuwait right now and he’ll be back and he’s already qualified for next year, so I know he’ll be doing it. And I know Marylee, she’s already qualified for next year too, and she’s doing it again. There’s no way they’re going to ruin that day for us.”

Crazy stuff

Prior to the Marathon, The Times had arranged to speak with Ms. Schroeder about the race experience at its conclusion. As news of the horrible events began to circulate, Ms. Schroeder texted The Times from Boston Monday to say that she and her family were safe.

Ms. Schroeder finished the race in 3 hours, 38 minutes and 3 seconds.

She is married to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School track coach and West Tisbury physical education instructor Joe Schroeder, who was on hand at the finish line to watch his wife cross.

“Yes, this is crazy stuff,” Joe Schroeder responded to a text message from The Times asking if Marylee was safe.

Ms. O’Callaghan finished the Marathon about 30 minutes after her fellow Islander.

“I’m fine and so is Marylee,” Ms. O’Callaghan told The Times in a telephone call Monday afternoon. “We’re all fine. It’s very creepy.”

Ms. O’Callaghan said she crossed the finish line about 30 minutes before the bomb blast.

“I was actually in the changing tent when we heard these two loud noises,” she told The Times, as she sat in a restaurant bar with other runners trying to make sense of the day’s events. “But it’s crazy here, I have to say. People are crying. People are dead, they said on the news.”

Ms. O’Callaghan finished with a time of 4 hours, 9 minutes. She said the race was run under ideal conditions and perfect weather. “It would have been the perfect day,” she said. “Scary stuff.”

So sad

“It’s crazy up here; we can’t leave our hotel,” Ms. Schroeder told The Times in a telephone conversation from the family’s Back Bay Hilton hotel room about 5 pm on Monday afternoon. “We wanted to leave, but they said the roads are closed around the hotel.”

Sounding remarkably calm given the tumult, Ms. Schroeder and her family were assessing the situation. “We can’t leave, so I’d like to take a shower and see if we can leave here eventually,” she said.

Ms. Schroeder crossed the finish line about 2 pm. The first bomb exploded at 2:50 pm.

Ms. Schroeder was in The Rattlesnake restaurant on Boylston Street near the finish line when the bombs exploded. “It’s the place we always go after the race,” she said. “Joe and my friend Kim O’Callaghan were meeting me there. I was already there when Joe arrived. He said, ‘There were two explosions that just happened.’ I said, ‘What the heck?'”

As soon as the group heard the news, their attention fixed on the continuing television news reports. “We all watched the TV news, and everybody in there was stunned,” she said.

Ms. Schroeder and her husband returned to the hotel room as soon as they could to be with their son and daughter. “We heard hotels were being evacuated, but we couldn’t leave because roads were closed,” she said. “Two people died and people lost limbs. It’s so sad.”

Still in shock

The Garrisons, Marathoners in their own right, were in Boston to watch their friend Gia DiDonato-Sroczenski, a Vineyard property owner, run in the race. They were on the route by the Lenox hotel.

“She finished about 2:23 pm,” he said. “and I guess the first bomb went off at 2:50 pm.”

The couple made their way through the six-deep crowd and walked behind the hotel past the finish line to gather. The ground shook when the first blast went off.

“In the back of my mind I thought it was a cannon going off to celebrate the end of the race,” he told The Times in a telephone call Tuesday. After the second blast people not in the immediate vicinity were uncertain what had occurred.

Mr. Garrison said the race volunteers dressed in yellow jackets did a very good job under the circumstances. “They really kept calm,” he said. “People were asking them questions, where to go, what to do.”

Mr. Garrison, food service director at the YMCA, and his wife compete in triathalons and marathons and are familiar with the camaraderie of large sporting events.

The atmosphere among the crowd Monday was warm and helpful. “It was incredible,” he said. “Everybody was upbeat and very friendly. People were cheering each other and helping people get closer to see whoever they were coming to watch. Everyone was in a great mood.”

The Garrisons returned to the Island Tuesday morning. “We’re still in a state of shock,” he said. “I think we’re still trying to process what happened.”

Mr. Garrison said his wife wants to run in next year’s race, and he will be there to cheer her on despite the anxiety he expects to feel. “It’s just like going to New York City after 9/11,” he said.

Three dead, many injured

The two bombs exploded along the north side of Boylston Street near the finish line of the marathon. The coordinated blasts killed three people and wounded 176 others, 17 of them critically, according to news reports.

The dead included an 8-year-old boy from Dorchester who was watching the Marathon with his family. His mother and sister were wounded.

The explosions sent smoke billowing into the air at Copley Square, turning a site of celebration into a mess of destruction, CNN reported.

Investigators now believe the bombs were shrapnel-studded pressure cookers, hidden in backpacks and set off by timers, according to NBC News.

The explosions occurred more than two hours after the first of the race’s nearly 27,000 runners had crossed the finish line, CNN producer Matt Frucci reported.

The race was halted, as was subway service into the area. Sporting events including a Bruins hockey game and Celtics basketball game were also cancelled.

Barry Stringfellow contributed to this report.