Escanaba runner uninjured in bomb blast

ESCANABA – A decision to hold back during the 117th Annual Boston Marathon may have turned out to be a blessing for an Escanaba woman Monday.

Kaylyn Bernard was just .6-mile from the finish of the 26.2-mile race when a pair of bombs exploded in downtown Boston, killing at least three people and wounding more than 130.

“I was just sick to my stomach,” said Bernard, who went to Boston with a qualifying time of three hours, 31 minutes, 55 seconds. “It happened just about the time I was about to finish. Everyone stopped what they were doing and there was silence. They were blocking off the street (heading into the finish) and getting people off to safe area. We weren’t able to finish.”

Bernard, hindered by an ankle injury, was clocked at 4:52:37 at 40 kilometers (nearly 25 miles) on Monday.

“I listened to my body and decided to go with it,” she said. “I purposely went slow because of my ankle. I’m just glad I didn’t try to pick it up in the end. I might have been finishing when the bombs went off.”

Other packages of suspicious nature were discovered and destroyed by various law enforcement agencies, the Associated Press reported.

“They found three more bombs right by me that didn’t go off,” Bernard said during a telephone interview from her hotel room in Waltham, Mass., Monday night. “I just couldn’t believe it. I’m still in shock. I went from a runner’s high to such a low. I’m so upset for the families who are suffering and the eight-year-old boy who was killed waiting for his mom and dad to finish.”

The sound of bombs is something Bernard says she’s all too familiar with.

“This brings back lot of horrible memories from war,” added Bernard, who served in Iraq in 2006. “I saw so much of that over there. It was just like a flashback. It was so scary. People didn’t know where to go. I was so upset because I couldn’t get a hold of my mom (Jayne Szukalowski). I was concerned for her safety. Thank God she was okay. We were scared for our lives.

“I don’t understand why anybody would want to do that. What was their purpose? Why would they want to hurt innocent people?”

A short time later, Bernard and Szukalowski took a taxi back to their hotel room, approximately a half-hour from downtown Boston.

“They weren’t letting runners back in their hotels (in Boston),” said Bernard. “They also closed the bus stations and shortly after they closed the roads. We were lucky to get back to our room. We just wanted to go somewhere we would feel safe.”

The news was also quite a shock to other area residents.

“When I first heard about it, I was in disbelief,” said Rapid River boys’ track coach Steve Ostrenga. “Greg Rubick (Rapid River girls’ coach) got a text message during track practice, and that’s how I found out about it. The kids were in disbelief, too. Is anything safe?

“First of all, you have to qualify for Boston. Then, you set personal goals and make it a family vacation. Maybe we need to re-teach the golden rule. It all comes down to respect. Some people just don’t seem to know the difference between right and wrong. It could happen to anyone of us while we’re out running or in the stands at a football game. You just don’t know when somebody is going to commit a heinous crime.”

Gladstone boys’ coach Gary Whitmer was also at track practice when learned about the explosions.

“First, Brady Downey showed me the results of the men’s race,” said Whitmer. “Then, an hour later he brought his I-phone and told us what happened. I thought he was kidding at first. People are smiling after finishing, then this happens. I don’t get it. I can’t fathom why anybody would do something like that. All we can do is keep living our lives and not let the terrorists control us.”

Esky girls’ coach Dan DeLong found out shortly after he arrived home from track practice.

“This is very cowardly,” he said. “They prey upon people who can’t defend themselves. It’s just so senseless. It looked like it affected the spectators more than anybody. I just don’t know what this world is coming to.”