CLEVELAND, Ohio -- What was supposed to be a day of celebration turned to tragedy for the 27,000 people who ran in the 2013 Boston Marathon.
At least three were killed and dozens injured in two explosions that hit near the finish line.
All of the runners from Northeast Ohio who were part of the marathon are reportedly all safe and back home. But they are returning with a sense of grief and relief, knowing they were that close to tragedy and able to reunite with their loved.
“It was when I called my daughter that I kinda, it hit reality," said Deana Fresenko. "I kinda broke down a little bit, because I was that close that and there were a lot of people who did lose friends and relatives."
She, along with husband Jerry, ran their first Boston Marathon together, both finishing less than an hour before the first bomb went off.
"It kinda took away from the whole experience," said Jerry Fresenko. "It was a real positive experience, incredibly run race for 27,000 people, and then have something like that happen, it takes away from the whole experience."
Katie Dieter, of Lakewood, and Jocelyn Rood, of Rocky River, also returned to Cleveland Hopkins Tuesday morning. They were finished with the race and in the family meeting area near the finish line when they heard the first explosion.
"There were people panicking, asking for cell phones," said Dieter. "We tried to help some people get a hold of their loved ones, and we were really unable to do that. Cell phones went down. It was, you know, pretty scary."
Saath Koy, of Canal Fulton, had just finished his fourth consecutive Boston Marathon and was collecting his blanket and medal when he heard a thunderous explosion behind him.
"I know right away because I'm originally from Cambodia, so I know what a bomb sounds like so I just ran from there to my hotel," said Koy.
Also past the finish line was Jeannie Rice, of Mentor, who finished first in her age group in spite of having fallen along the course and hurt her elbow.
Rice said she declined medical attention on the course so she could try to finish first, but was in the medical tent after the race when she heard the bombs explode behind her.
"I saw big smoke going up, oh my gosh it was so scary, and then within a half-minute another one, so we were just going toward the opposite way. It was so scary," said Rice.
Still on the course, about an eighth of a mile from the finish line, Pam Goldfarb, of Richfield, said she didn't know what to make of the first explosion.
"I'm about an eighth of a mile out and heard the first explosion. You didn't know what it was. You are unsure, so we kept going forward. I still had a lot of other people around me, and then the second explosion went off and you just knew that something was not right," said Goldfarb.
Nicole Gareri, of Green, had also finished the race but was still on the other side of the finish line.
"It was frightening. Everybody was panicking, and it was eerily silent. No one was talking, and there were sirens and helicopters, and everybody was just trying to get away, but there was nowhere to go," said Gareri.
Along the course, Peter Manhoff, of Medina, was in the crowd ready to cheer on his wife, Delores, who was within a half-mile of the finish.
"I was about 150 yards from the finish line, waiting for my wife and watching the runners come through, and there was a loud explosion right at the finish line, and everybody was just kind of shocked and I think confused," said Manhoff.
"A few seconds later there was another explosion, and we knew what it was and then we pushed down the fence in front of us, and I was only 150 yards from each one of them and just kind of shocked and panicked," he added.
His wife said she had no idea what was happening from where she was on the course, but after running 25 miles found herself and others at a standstill.
"So we knew nothing, and we stood there for about 50 minutes, and they disbursed us, but we had to take an alternate route, we couldn't go through the finish line," said Delores.
The Manhoffs were eventually safely reunited at their motel room.
All of the runners and their families describe a sense of disbelief that anyone would want to target a marathon.
"It's Boston, it's Patriots Day. That's what America is all about, and it kind of to me was, 'Are they making a statement,' you know, trying to target this race that's part of the city's heritage, and is such a prestigious race for people to go to, and targeting the four-hour finish when that is when the majority of the runners will finish," said Carol Knez, of Chardon.
"It's just heart wrenching -- you are out there for a celebration, and it just makes you second guess your actions now and your safety and it is very, very unsettling," said Goldfarb.
"Those poor people who were injured, my heart goes out to them and their families." added Goldfarb.
But all said, the experience will not keep them from running again.
"I still love running. I've been running for almost 30 years, so I'll just keep going," said Koy.
"The scary part for me is, I'm running the Nashville Marathon in 11 days, so I get to hop on a plane and go to Nashville in 10 days, and it's going to be kind of surreal when I get to that 25-26 mile for me, it's going to actually be hard to run that and finish that race," said Knez.
Kevin Goodman, managing director of Blue Bridge Networks in Cleveland, ran the marathon to celebrate his 50th birthday. He, too, had finished the race and was in his hotel when terror struck.
Goodman said he will not let the evil people responsible for the blast prevent him from participating in future races.
“The running community is strong," said Goodman. "Boston is a strong city. America is a strong country, and the human nature, and the human spirit, is resilient."
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