Burholme runner describes scene in Boston

Burholme’s Greta Garecht waves to a cam­era mid­way through last week’s Bo­ston Mara­thon. Photo cour­tesy of Mara­thon Foto.

As Burholme’s Greta Garecht neared the fin­ish line at last week’s Bo­ston Mara­thon, her hus­band, step­moth­er and in­fant daugh­ter were watch­ing her race from the nearby bleach­ers.

“We were scream­ing at the top of our lungs,” said Don Garecht, the run­ner’s hus­band.

Greta was so fo­cused on the 26.2-mile run that she didn’t hear their cheers, nor did she know the trio had made their way to the fin­ish line.

The mara­thon­er col­lec­ted her medal and grabbed bottled wa­ter, pro­tein bars and a cape to keep warm. A few minutes later, she heard an ex­plo­sion.

“I looked back and saw smoke,” she said.

Greta heard an­oth­er loud boom seconds later, and figured it was a build­ing col­lapse or a gas pipe ex­plo­sion. She saw po­lice vehicles and heard sirens.

Then, she called her dad, who told her that Don, step­mom Eileen Forst and 9-month-old Vi­ol­et were near the fin­ish line dur­ing the ex­plo­sions. She broke out in tears.

“I pan­icked. I didn’t know they were right across the street,” she said.

Fi­nally, after a series of text mes­sages and phone calls among Greta and oth­er fam­ily mem­bers in Bo­ston for the oc­ca­sion, it turned out that every­one was safe. They agreed to stay off the “T” — the Mas­sachu­setts Bay Trans­it Au­thor­ity — and make the sev­er­al-mile walk back to their hotel.

As Greta waited for her hus­band and daugh­ter to ar­rive, she watched tele­vi­sion news foot­age of what turned out to be an at­tack by two young men, Chechen Muslims, who’d been liv­ing in Mas­sachu­setts for more than a dec­ade.

“I got more up­set,” she said of watch­ing the TV re­ports.

Even­tu­ally, Don and Vi­ol­et ar­rived at the hotel, much to Greta’s re­lief.

“I gave them the biggest hug ever,” she said.

Greta, 30, a lib­rar­i­an at Gate­way Re­gion­al High School in Wood­bury Heights, N.J., com­pleted the mara­thon in 4:15.31. That’s not bad con­sid­er­ing she is four months preg­nant.

Back in 2010, her time was about 4:05. Last Novem­ber, she fin­ished the Phil­adelphia Mara­thon in 3:32.11.

The day star­ted in­no­cently enough for Don and Vi­ol­et. They saw Greta run past the eight-mile mark of the race be­fore driv­ing back to their hotel, where they left the car and baby stroller. They hopped on the T to get to the fin­ish line.

After watch­ing Greta com­plete the race, Don began to feed Vi­ol­et, only to be in­ter­rup­ted by a blast a mere 40 yards away.

“All of a sud­den, we heard what soun­ded like a can­non go off. We felt a vi­bra­tion and the bleach­ers shake,” he said.

At first, Don, who is chief deputy com­mis­sion­er in the of­fice of city elec­tions com­mis­sion­er Al Schmidt, thought there was some sort of mal­func­tion.

“Ten seconds later, the second one went off,” said Don, es­tim­at­ing that it was a block away from where he was sit­ting.

The ex­plo­sions scared Vi­ol­et.

“I grabbed my daugh­ter as tight as I could. She star­ted cry­ing,” her dad said.

Don and the oth­ers were bra­cing for a third ex­plo­sion, but it nev­er came.

Still, he and his daugh­ter and Forst made a quick es­cape.

“We ran four blocks away,” he said.

Don de­scribed the scene as “crazy,” and said he was sur­prised that only three people were killed, in ad­di­tion to the more than 180 who were hos­pit­al­ized, some with am­pu­ta­tions and oth­er ser­i­ous in­jur­ies. He cred­ited first re­spon­ders with do­ing a good job rip­ping down bar­ri­cades so people could make a some­what or­gan­ized get­away.

“The po­lice and vo­lun­teers were in­cred­ible,” he said.

Greta and her broth­er, Curt, have already qual­i­fied for next year’s Bo­ston Mara­thon, and they plan to be there. The 2014 race is set for April 21, the day after East­er.

All hope for a more peace­ful mara­thon after last week’s bit­ter­sweet ex­per­i­ence.

“I’m really grate­ful that my wife and baby and rest of the fam­ily that were there are OK,” Don said, “but I feel bad for every­one else who was not as lucky.” ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus