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An hour after Rick Torres finished his first Boston Marathon, the street where he crossed the finish line with a mixture of exhaustion and accomplishment turned into chaos.
From his room in the Marriott Copley Place hotel, Torres and his wife, Leslie, could see smoke coming from the area where minutes earlier they walked. It wasn’t long before the Elizabethtown couple realized a day of elation for thousands had become a date in history to remember.
“We saw people running as fast at they could to get away,” Rick Torres said. “It’s just so tragic and sad.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, three people are dead and 176 injured from the two blasts along the finish line. Several of the injured are in critical condition.
Leslie Torres said she knew something “awful” happened. She lived in New York City during the 2001 terrorist attacks on that city and recognized the panic and fear.
“I have been through 9/11,” she said. “I kind of knew. I have seen people run like that before.”
The hours after the two blasts rocked the city and nation seemed surreal to Rick and Leslie. Police were everywhere, the hotel was under lockdown and dogs could be seen on rooftops looking for any link to the explosions. The Marriott is about 200 yards from the finish line.
“We’re just sad,” Rick said. “People at first were just in complete shock about what happened.”
Torres finished the 26.2-mile race in 3 hours, 9 minutes and 21 seconds. Leslie, who was along the race route about a block and a half and on the opposite side from where the second blast occurred, didn’t see her husband pass but received a text alert from their phone provider that he finished.
Once she found Rick, they spent some time at the finish line and headed to the hotel.
“It’s a matter of chance,” Leslie said. “It could have been us. You think what if he had run a little slower or if I had chosen to spectate in a different area?”
She said she originally planned to watch the race across the street from where the second bomb exploded, but ended up down more from the finish line.
Leslie said there was a heavy police presence before and during the race.
Rick, who works for the Mission Installation Contracting Center at Fort Knox, has participated in marathons in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco and qualified for Boston out of the Chicago Marathon. Now 50, he has been an avid runner since he was 12 years old.
Torres said he plans to run in the Boston Marathon again.
“I’ve dreamed about running the Boston Marathon since I was a 15-year-old, growing up in Iowa,” he said. “Running great Bill Rodgers was my hero and what happened on Monday just makes me sad on what is supposed to be a celebration for Bostonians and runners along with their friends and families on Patriots Day.
“I’ve been battling some injuries, but if I’m healthy I’ll return to Boston in 2014,” he added. “You can’t live in fear. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.”
Still shaken by the experience, the couple returned Tuesday to Elizabethtown.
Jeff D'Alessio can be reached at (270) 505-1757 or firstname.lastname@example.org