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Boston attack hits close to home

Local runners were in Boston for the annual marathon


More than a dozen Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood residents were running in the Boston Marathon on Monday, each of them witnesses to the worst act of terrorism on American soil since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The blasts were felt for blocks, killing three and injuring more than 150 others.

Nearly all of the runners from Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood had crossed the finish line before the explosions began.

The runners included Rob Saxton, a Sherwood resident and the former superintendent of the Tigard-Tualatin and Sherwood school districts.

Saxton, who currently serves as Oregon’s deputy superintendent of public instruction, was competing in his third Boston Marathon. He told The Times on Monday he finished the race about 50 minutes before the explosions and was back in his hotel about a half-mile away when he first learned the news.

Saxton’s wife accompanied him on the trip and had spent the day touring Boston, including a stop near the John F. Kennedy Library, which also experienced an unrelated fire around that same time.

Kirsten Crowley of Tigard was competing in her first Boston Marathon with her husband Ross. The Crowleys had finished the race about 20 minutes earlier and were a few blocks away from the explosions with a group of other runners who were getting dressed.

At first, Crowley said, she thought the sound was cannon fire.

“I thought, ‘Why are they firing a cannon now? The really elite runners had already gone through,’ ” she said.

Other runners thought the same thing. Most looked up for a moment, Crowley said, then went back to what they were doing, she recalled.

“We didn’t know what it was, then a woman came by crying, ‘There’s something going on. There’s something going on.’ ”

Soon, Crowley said, she heard sirens in the distance and police evacuated the area, forcing Crowley and the other runners to leave.

“We didn’t even know what had happened until we got on a bus and heard it over the radio and the TV stations,” she said.

Of the 14 runners from Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, only two had not crossed the finish line by the time of the explosion.

One of those, Sherwood resident Michelle LaVine, told The Times she was at Mile 20 when the explosions occurred.

“I’m exhausted physically and mentally,” she said late Monday.

The race was shut down after the explosions, LaVine said, but the reasons given to the runners were vague at first.

LaVine learned a few moments later about the terrifying incident she called “tragic beyond words.”

“It’s very sad,” said LaVine, 46.

The severity of the explosions soon became apparent to her after she began receiving a steady barrage of text messages and emails from friends and family.

Because she was fighting a previous injury, LaVine estimated she was probably still an hour from finishing and didn’t hear the explosion.

West Linn resident Dave Harkin, however, did.

Harkin, the owner of Portland Running Company on Southwest Scholls Ferry Road, was in his hotel room above the marathon’s finish line when he felt the explosions.

The building rattled, he said, and it was immediately apparent that something major had happened.

“Our initial reaction, my wife’s especially, was to immediately get out of the building,” Dave Harkin told The Times’ news partner radio station KPAM on Monday. “We weren’t actually allowed to do that; we got to the lobby and were turned around.”

Back in their room, Harkin said, they saw two “very major casualties” in the street.

“It didn’t look good at all — it looked like they were very seriously injured,” he said.

The street had turned from “a sense of celebration to a panicked, very high-intensity situation,” he said.

“Within minutes, everything was sirens and emergency vehicles,” he added. “Civilians running one way, and EMTs and emergency personnel running the other way to try to get a handle on what had happened and what was possibly going to continue to happen.”

The hotel was eventually evacuated, and the Harkins walked about 10 blocks until they reached a residential area and sat down in front of a row house. As they contemplated what to do next, a man approached and introduced himself as Larry.

“He kind of came up and asked us how we were doing,” Harkin said. “Within minutes, he said, ‘Why don’t you come in my place, at least get off the street for a little bit.’ ”

Speaking to KPAM from Larry’s home, Harkin tried to put the events in perspective.

“We just came and ran and were luckily outside of the rest of it,” Harkin said. “It’s a great tragedy, it’s very devastating.”

— Pamplin Media Group reporters Ray Pitz, Patrick Malee and KPAM anchor Diana Jordan contributed to this story.




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