CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – Douglas G. Grafflin gym teacher and Horace Greeley assistant high school baseball coach Joe Kearns finished Monday’s Boston Marathon with a personal record of 3:07 around 1:50 p.m.
He only got an hour to feel good about it, however, as the two explosions occurred at the finish line around 2:50 p.m.
“I had finished the race and everything was great. They gave me my water, medal and banana,” said Kearns.
Kearns then headed back to his hotel, which was about a block away, to meet his girlfriend.
“All of the sudden, we heard an explosion. We didn’t think it was a bomb. It was loud, but it was muffled. I thought maybe a transformer blew—anything other than a bomb, really,” he said. “Then, 10 seconds later, we heard the second explosion and my girlfriend heard sirens. That’s when we knew it was a serious situation.”
After that, Kearns said he received several texts asking him if he was okay and turned on the television. Once they saw what had happened, getting out of Boston was the goal. They went to get their car out of the hotel garage and were seven cars away from paying for their parking and leaving the facility when police stopped all traffic.
“They had closed all roads and were not letting anyone go. We were there for hours in a holding pattern,” he said.
After parking their car again, they walked to the street until being cleared to leave, as they watched German Shepards and bomb squads scour the area Kearns had ran on just hours ago.
“It was an uneasy feeling. Luckily we were able to eventually escape,” he said. “You can’t help but feel helpless and guilty in that situation. It could have been me.”
Kearns said at one point, his girlfriend was watching the race at the location of where the second bomb eventually went off.
“It’s just the luck of the draw. If I finish a little sooner or a little later, the outcome could have been different for either one of us—or both,” he said. “We’re very fortunate.”
As Kearns returned to Douglas G. Grafflin on Wednesday, he said he had yet to field any truly difficult questions from his students and guessed that their parents had “done a good job with those.”
For Kearns, it was a day he’ll never forget, but not for the reasons he had hoped.
“I just hope something like this never happens again,” he said. “I went in worrying about my finish time and things like that—it makes you realize what’s important in life. It puts things in perspective.”
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