Timing. Pure timing. Pure timing and luck.
For more than an hour Monday, Turlock resident Desiree Silva inched her way toward the barrier near the Boston Marathon’s finish line on the city’s famed Boylston Street.
It’s a ritual at these events. You work, nudge, cram and jockey for position to snap a few photos of your friend or relative. That accomplished, you gladly relinquish your spot to the folks behind you so they can do the same.
Consequently, the moment friend and marathoner Julie Lascano of Turlock passed by them and completed her first Boston Marathon, Silva and Lascano’s mom, Kathy Martin of Livermore, headed off to rendezvous with her at the family area a few blocks down the street.
“One woman was so excited to get our spot,” Silva said. “ ‘OK, you’ve got it.’ ”
Silva and Martin began working their way through the crowd, with no way of knowing they were walking toward safety and turning their backs on the destruction, death and dismemberment about to happen.
In fact, they were only a block from the finish line when they heard a loud boom.
“We wanted to think it was thunder,” said Silva, a former Bee graphic artist whose husband, Jim, is a Bee online editor and writes a column about marathoning. “But we knew it wasn’t.”
Indeed, it was one of two explosions about 12 seconds apart, the first of which blew out of a storefront just a few feet from where Silva had snapped her photos a few minutes earlier.
“We were right there — right in front of the flags,” Silva said.
Three confirmed dead, more than 100 injured, according to authorities.
t the very same moment, runner Alex Shoob of Modesto could literally smell the finish, just three-tenths of a mile from completing his marathon, which he didn’t because officials shut down the race just a few minutes after the blasts.
And the Stockton Record reported that University of the Pacific administrator Janet Dial was 50 yards beyond the finish line when the first bomb went off.
Timing, indeed. Luck, too.
“It was nerve-wracking,” said Lascano, a 38-year-old wife and mother of four children. “I crossed about 10 minutes before the explosion. About five minutes after, I saw a police officer talking on his walkie- talkie and by his face, and I could tell this was something major. People started saying they heard it was a bomb. Somebody said it was a gas explosion. I was almost positive Desiree and Mom were standing right there when it went off.”
Moments later, she saw an ambulance come down the street, followed by 10 or 15 more over the next few minutes. She finally reconnected with her mom and Silva, and they found refuge in their hotel two miles away.
They are left to wonder: What if Lascano ran 10 minutes slower than her 3 hours, 50.02 minutes? What if Silva and Martin had lingered near the line after Lascano finished?
Or what if 67-year-old Shoob, who began running marathons at age 60 and completed the previous two in Boston, had fully recovered from a nagging calf injury and been just a couple of minutes faster? He was on pace to finish in 4:10 or less. What if he’d matched his 4:06.38 in the 2011 New York Marathon? (The 2012 race was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy.)
“I could have been right there (at the finish when the blasts happened),” he said.
And what about the woman who so giddily took Silva’s place at the fence barrier? Did she, too, move on before the blast? “I’m just praying,” Silva said.
Jeff Jardine’s column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.