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Lower Valley runners complete Boston Marathon before day turns tragic

BOSTON - Two explosions rocked the finish line at the Boston Marathon yesterday a little more than four hours after the race had started. Two runners from Sunnyside were already finished with the race and were at safe distances when the explosions occurred.

Three are confirmed dead in the blasts, including an 8-year-old boy. In a press conference this morning, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said 176 were injured and 17 of those are in critical condition.

Davis also told reporters that two sweeps for explosives had been conducted along the course on race day, one in the early morning and one just before the lead runners came through. Nothing was found during those sweeps. Because of unrestricted public access to the course, the devices could have been planted later.

Both the FBI and Boston police requested anyone with video of the day bring it to be examined. Davis said the police intend to go through every frame of video looking for clues.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick started this morning's press conference by saying only two explosive devices were found yesterday and there were no unexploded devices found. Major media outlets were reporting as many as five unexploded devices.

Gene Marquez of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms reiterated the point, saying the inaccurate reports were due to extreme caution taken with any suspect package right after the explosion.

Rick DesLauriers, the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation, also spoke at the press conference. He said the mission of the FBI is "to bring to justice those responsible for the marathon bombing."

The event shocked not only the nation, but our local runners as well.

Sunnyside High School Principal Ryan Maxwell and Chief Kamiakin teacher Doris Matson both finished the race before the incident.

Maxwell said his wife and son were at the store where the bombing took place only a half an hour before the explosion. The area, near the finish line, was lined with spectators.

"The last three miles of the race were packed," he said. "The grandstands were targeted."

Maxwell, who finished the race in 3:19.20, was at the finish line roughly 40 minutes before the bombing occurred. He said his family wanted to go back and shop, but he was tired and needed to get away from the crowd so they went back to the hotel instead.

Maxwell also said he saw security before the race. While the nearly 27,000 athletes gathered at the athlete village before the race, Maxwell spotted snipers on the roof of the high school nearby.

Matson finished in 3:54.31 and was at the finish line about 15 minutes before the bombs went off. She injured her ankle two weeks ago and was behind the time she wanted.

"I got to mile 12 and it really started to hurt," she said. "I just kept thinking I had to keep going, I can't stop or I won't finish. I told myself I would be happy if I could break four hours, and I did."

She had just finished checking out when the first bomb went off.

"If I had been a little slower today, I might have been right there," she said. "I was about a block and a half from it. I heard, saw the bomb. Then I saw the second one."

Her first concern was for her daughters, Lisa and Laura.

"I saw the bombs and worried that they were there," she said. "When I turned the corner to our meeting place and saw Lisa, it didn't matter anymore. My girls were ok."

After a short rest, the trio needed to get back to the hotel two miles away. But subways weren't running, so they had to walk. It took about an hour, with frequent rests for Matson's sore ankle.

"I feel sorry for Boston," said Matson. "It was a well-run, well-organized event. So many people asked if I was ok on the walk back. They asked if I was able to finish. The outpouring of support was great."

Matson also noted the international nature of the event. On the bus to the starting line she met a man from Paris, France. While walking back to the hotel she met a runner from South Africa who didn't finish the race because of the bombs.

"It made a totally different end of the day," she said. "It's just incredible that someone would do this."

Maxwell agreed.

"It's surreal to be that close to something like this," said Maxwell. "It's shocking."

Granger resident Ron Fleming also completed the marathon yesterday with a time of 3:42.24. He and his wife had no idea the bombing had happened at first.

"Ron and I had just started back to our hotel and were in a subway train about three blocks away," said Pam Fleming. "We were told there was an emergency and we had to evacuate the subway immediately, we didn't know what was happening, but were told the Green Line was now closed."

Eventually they talked with runners who had been near the finish line during the blast, who told them what happened.

"It was hard to enjoy the fact that Ron had a good run with all the tragedy surrounding this great event," said Fleming. "Thankfully we are all safe."

President Barack Obama delivered a short address about three hours after the incident, praising the first responders and promising to find the people responsible.

"Boston police, firefighters, and first responders as well as the National Guard responded heroically, and continue to do so as we speak. It's a reminder that so many Americans serve and sacrifice on our behalf every single day, without regard to their own safety, in dangerous and difficult circumstances. And we salute all those who assisted in responding so quickly and professionally to this tragedy," he said.

"We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn't jump to conclusions before we have all the facts," he continued. "But make no mistake - we will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this; we'll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice."

This morning President Obama ordered the flag to be flown at half-staff until sunset on April 20.

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