Four hours and nine minutes into this year’s historic Boston Marathon, two pressure-cooker bombs exploded at the finish line, killing three people and injuring hundreds of spectators. The Patriot’s Day event on April 15 — the world’s oldest and largest marathon — drew 500,000 spectators and more than 23,000 runners, including several UCLA Health employees.
Nurse Practitioner, Interventional Radiology, UCLA Beach Imaging, Santa Monica
UCLA nurse practitioner Chris Kim wasn’t looking forward to the cold and strenuous Boston Marathon this year, but her outlook was sunnier than she expected when race day arrived.
“It was a beautiful day, 47 degrees, perfect weather for a marathon,” Kim recalls. “I realized how much I love running through the city of Boston, and I felt really good.”
Kim, who has run 18 marathons since 2007, had completed the Boston Marathon in 3:47 in 2009 and wanted to break 3:40 this year. When she crossed the finish line at 3:39, she was so excited she jumped up and down and sent pictures to several colleagues and friends. Shivering at the finish line, she went to the family waiting area about a block and a half away to wait for a fellow runner.
“All of a sudden, I hear this boom,” Kim says. “The ground shook and I thought, ‘why are they doing construction on Patriot’s Day?’ Someone started screaming that there’s a bomb near the stands and then another one went off.”
Kim tried to look for her friend but police closed off the area around the finish line. A police officer pointed her toward Harvard Square, where she could catch a subway back to her hotel.
Cold, wet, hungry and worried about her friend, Kim managed to walk four miles to Harvard Square — after having run more than 26 — before finally making her way back to her hotel, where she watched the grisly scene unfold on the news. A few hours later, she was reunited with her friend, who was dry, warm and safe, thanks to kind strangers who let her shower in their hotel room and gave her warm clothes, before another pair of strangers gave her $100 for cab fare.
“The people of Boston are amazing,” Kim says. “They were extremely compassionate and kind. I feel terrible for the people who got hurt, but I’m definitely going back next year.”
Physical Therapist, Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist, UCLA Health 15th Street office in Santa Monica
UCLA physical therapist Jill Weisman, a veteran marathoner who has entered about 30 races since 1987, avoided the New York Marathon after 9/11 because she felt unsafe in crowds. The Boston Marathon seemed different — until April 15. Now, Weisman isn’t sure she will ever run another one.
“I’ve always been afraid that something like this could happen,” Weisman says. “It’s only been a month and I’m not ruling it out, but I feel horrible about what happened to all those spectators. Life as they know it will never be the same. I love the social aspect of running, but bombings, injuries and death are a big price to pay for people doing a marathon.”
Weisman, who has worked at UCLA for three years, crossed the finish line with her running partner at 3:51. They were getting their gear out of the bus when suddenly they heard a loud explosion, which they initially mistook for a gas explosion, until the second bomb exploded.
“We didn’t know if there were any more bombs,” Weisman recalls. “I felt horrible and helpless. But the police and the medical team were excellent. There would have been a lot more deaths if not for them.”
Eventually, Weisman and her friend found a taxi and made it safely back to their hotel. While Weisman expects she will return to Boston and plans to donate money and time to support the local community, she considers herself at the end of her running career.
Marketing and Media Relations Analyst for UCLA Health - Santa Monica Medical Center
As a UCLA media relations analyst, Simi Singer typically works behind the scenes with reporters, helping them find doctors and patients to inter-view for their stories. When bombs exploded as Singer headed into the final stretch of the Boston Marathon, she became part of the story.
The veteran runner was about half a mile from the finish line when she heard a blast that sounded like a cannon, but louder. A minute later, police arrived saying there had been “an incident” and the runners would have to stop.
“What do you mean, stop? It’s a race,” Singer said, as runners began piling up behind her. When runners began receiving text messages about an explosion at the finish line, where Singer’s parents were waiting for her, she panicked. Her phone dead, she borrowed someone else’s to text her 14-year-old son, Matthew, to relay a message to her parents that she was okay. It would take three hours before Singer would be reunited with her parents, who were also safe.
Several news outlets, including the Los Angeles Times and People magazine, ended up profiling Singer and her parents, Freda and Bernie Garbose of Boston, in their coverage of the marathon bombing.
Although she doesn’t like to think about how close she was to where the bombs exploded, she appre-ciated that Boston Marathon organizers announced that runners prevented from finishing the race would be invited back to next year’s marathon.
“I’m from the Boston area and I love this race,” Singer says. “Of course, I’m going back.”