For Colleen Lieggi, April 15 represented a triumph. Running in the Boston Marathon for the first time, she had completed a goal she set out to accomplish more than four years ago.
Crossing the finish line at 4 hours, 2 minutes and 32 seconds, the 44-year-old principal of Ames School in Riverside finished 16,144th overall; 6,314th among women competing in the race and 1,112th among women between the ages of 40 and 44.
“I felt great, the temperature was perfect, the fans were amazing and the route is beautiful,” Lieggi said. “It was a great experience.”
After completing the race, she picked up some belongings and headed directly to the Copley Square subway station about a block away, went down and boarded a train. A matter of minutes had elapsed.
“Then the conductor said everybody needs to evacuate the train; no one knew why,” she said.
When Lieggi reached street level again, she realized something terrible had happened.
“I saw ambulances there,” she said. “They kept coming one after another.”
No one was allowed near the finish line area, so she went back to her hotel. That’s where she discovered what happened.
“I could tell something had happened,” she said. “I didn’t know what it was until I got back to the hotel.”
What had happened was two bombs detonating about 15 seconds apart near the finish line of the race. As of Tuesday morning, three people were reported dead and more than 150 injured, many of them severely.
But knowledge of the blasts, at least initially, appears to have been very localized. Another few blocks east of the Copley Square subway station, Riverside resident Alan McCarter was inside an Italian restaurant with his family to celebrate with his brother Greg, who had completed his first Boston Marathon.
Greg McCarter, 51, had finished the race about a half hour earlier with a time of 3:29:55, good for 8,433rd overall. A veteran marathoner, McCarter had qualified for Boston every year for the past 20 years. This year, he decided to go for it.
No one inside the restaurant heard or felt the explosions. Because of the size of the restaurant and its proximity to the blast site, police evacuated the business.
“Everyone was really shaken, really upset,” said Alan McCarter, who has been running marathons since the late 1970s but never qualified for Boston. “This marathon will never be the same again.”
Both McCarter and Lieggi noted that the Boston Marathon was different from others. Run on a city holiday, Patriots Day, the marathon is part of a city-wide celebration. While police were present on the streets, it was more open. The security aspect of the event wasn’t as pronounced.
“On the course, there are just tons of kids and families,” Lieggi said. “It’s hard for it to be real secure because it’s so open. There are so many people involved.”
“They don’t have the same security Chicago has,” said Alan McCarter. “It’s a trusting town. You don’t see police like in the city of Chicago.”
It wasn’t until later in the evening that the McCarters left the area to go back to their hotel. Because of safety fears, they opted against taking the subway, which had been their plan.
“It’s a damn shame,” said McCarter.