Valley runners express dismay

Staff report


Some Mahoning Valley residents who ran in the Boston Marathon are unscathed but dismayed that the event was targeted by terrorism.

“Based on what I know about marathons and finishes, the five-hour mark is one of the busiest times. I bet it was timed,” said Scott C. Yakubek, a local competitor in Monday’s race. He believes the bombs may have been deliberately detonated when the most people would have been around the finish line.

Jakubek said he passed about 10 feet from the spot of one of the explosions “literally two hours before it happened. The bomb was probably there when I went past.”

Jakubek, director of information systems development at PMC Systems in North Jackson, is a 1997 graduate of Salem High School and an Allegheny College alumnus.

He and his family, including his wife and children and mother and father, were eating lunch about two miles from the finish line when the explosions occurred. He said they neither heard nor saw anything, but when they learned about the bombings, they got the family together and got out of Boston.

He said he contacted the other three area runners with whom he often trains at home, and reported they were all OK. There were people still out on the course when the explosions occurred, but everybody he knew had finished, he said.

Jakubek, interviewed via phone, said there was no warning or threat nor any sense of danger.

“It was a normal marathon. Everybody was just excited to run,” he said.

‘Horrible tragedy’

“It’s a horrible tragedy, a very sad event. It makes you wonder, what’s the point,” said Jakubek, audibly upset by the event.

“It’s a lifetime achievement for a lot of people ... something that represents a huge commitment of time and dedication and effort.

“The finish line is one of the best places to see the race, and one of my favorite places on earth. For this to happen is tough. It will stick in my mind, but it won’t keep me from running again,” he said.

Amanda Fire, 31, was walking back to her hotel about five blocks from the finish line when a blast occurred.

“I didn’t hear the explosions but I saw two firetrucks fly by, and when I got back to the hotel, I wondered why there were so many sirens,” said Fire, a 2001 Leetonia High School graduate and a marketing coordinator for Boardman’s Hill, Barth and King.

“I received so many text messages from friends back in the Youngstown area, and I had no idea what happened, so I turned on the news,” she said in an email.

Fire said officials have asked everyone to stay in their hotels and to not go outside. She said cellphone service had been temporarily shut down in Boston on Monday afternoon so no other bombs could be activated. The service disruption made it difficult to notify friends and family of her safety.

‘Very shaken up’

“I’m very shaken up,” Fire said. “I’ve been in shock since I’ve heard about it. It’s so terrible.”

Terry McCluskey, 64, of Vienna, was participating in his 15th Boston marathon. He finished the race shortly after 1 p.m. before heading back to his hotel located about 1.5 miles northeast of the finish line. McCluskey had no idea of the explosions until friends and family started texting him.

“All I wanted to do was get a hot shower and get cleaned up,” said McCluskey. “I didn’t have the TV on or anything, and people started calling and texting me to see if I was OK.”

A medical technologist, McCluskey retired from St. Joseph Hospital in 2011.

Cory McCusker of New Springfield, an emergency room nurse at Salem Community Hospital, was about a block away, on his way back to his hotel when the first explosion went off. He’d finished the race about a half hour before.

“I’m OK,” he said. “Everyone I know locally is OK.”

It’s wall-to-wall people around the route, but when the explosion went off in the spectator area near the finish line, everyone stopped, he said.

“After the first one, we thought, well, maybe it’s not a bomb — because it sounded like a bomb,” he said. “My friend I was walking with looked at me and said, ‘What was that?’ Then after the second one went off, it removed all doubt about what was going on.”

Then the black Chevrolet Suburbans and the ambulances descended. Although his hotel is about a mile from the explosion site, they had to take a long way there because of security.

People began taking out their cellphones trying to reach loved ones.

Presumed terrorism

“It was presumed it was terrorism — they were that loud,” McCusker said. “Then panic started to somewhat set in as far as trying to contact people.”

Immediately after, no one had any information about what was going on, and many had difficulty getting cell or Internet signals.

Security personnel pushed people away from the scene.

“They’re saying, ‘Keep moving, keep moving,’” McCusker said. “I didn’t know at that point if the next vehicle we passed was another detonation site.”

Back at his hotel about an hour after the explosions, he said he felt safe. Up until the tragedy, McCusker was having a wonderful time and had planned to return next year for a family vacation with his two children.

He said he probably won’t do that now — though he probably will return on his own.

Youngstown Phantoms assistant coach Rob Rassey lived in Boston for six years and attended Northeastern University from 2005 to 2009 after playing for the Mahoning Valley Phantoms. He learned of the explosions when the Phantoms’ practice at the Covelli Centre ended at 4:30 p.m.

Rassey immediately called his girlfriend, Morgan Bradler, who lives about five blocks from the Boston Marathon finish line. His call went through within minutes. Bradler was in her apartment when the explosions detonated.

“She heard the explosions but thought it was construction,” Rassey said. “There’s been a lot of construction recently in her building and the one next door.”

Rassey admitted he felt scared while he was dialing.

“I have a lot of friends in that area, too,” Rassey said. “Marathon Monday is like a holiday in Boston — nobody goes to work. Everybody is out, everybody is around there. It’s scary.”

Contributors: Staff writers William K. Alcorn, Denise Dick, Danny Restivo and Tom Williams.

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