Tarrant residents scramble for information on at least 45 local runners in Boston

Posted Monday, Apr. 15, 2013  Print Reprints

Boston Marathon information lines

For information on loved ones, call: 617-635-4500

If you have info on the explosions, call: 1-800-494-TIPS (1-800-494-8477)

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News of Monday afternoon’s explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon rattled people in North Texas as they plugged into social media and news reports, hoping for information about local runners known to be at the annual 26.2-mile race.

At least 28 Fort Worth residents and 17 from other Tarrant County cities were listed on the 2013 Boston Marathon entry list.

Laura Gresenes, marketing director of the Fort Worth Running Company, learned of the blasts about 2:30 p.m. Monday. She, along with others in the store, scrambled to learn if people they knew were safe.

She said six people affiliated with the store’s training groups were at the event. Within moments, they knew that two were safe.

“We’re just in shock and we’re trying to find out if everyone’s safe through texting and social media,” she said. “These aren’t just our customers. These are our friends.”

Chimene Fikkert of Mansfield said she thought the explosion came from the sky.

“Like it was a helicopter,” she said.

Fikkert was competing with a group of friends from Fort Worth in her first Boston Marathon.

She had just finished the event when, about seven minutes after crossing the finish line, she heard the first explosion.

“I turned around when I heard it and we were just all so stunned,” she said in a phone interview from her hotel in Boston. “The volunteers kept saying, ‘Keep moving. Don’t stop.’ It’s scary. You could clearly understand if there was mass panic. But there wasn’t any. The explosions went off one right after the other.”

She said all of her friends in the group, which numbered four, were OK.

Megan Forrest, 18, of Keller, reported her experience by Twitter: “Injured mid run, but finished strong! Two bombs just went off about 10 minutes after I finished. Prayers for me my family and Boston please.

“Had I finished 5 minutes sooner or later, my family would have been affected by a terrorist attack. We are OK at our hotel prayers please. “Everyone ran from the bomb and 2 men in service who were running the marathon turned and ran to it to help people.”

Avery Miller of Fort Worth, a student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, was about two-and-a-half miles west of the blast site. He said pedestrians were busily trying to summon information on their smart phones beneath the rattling of helicopters overhead.

As Miller walked east on Commonwealth Avenue he encountered a steady flow of people moving away from the scene of the two explosions.

“I talked to a couple people,” he said “They didn’t see anything but heard everything. They said they heard two loud bangs and then people screaming. Then they heard police cars and saw police on motorcycles and police running. They didn’t wait around to see what happened next; they got out while the getting was good.”

A lot of the people wore “Marathon Monday” t-shirts, Miller said.

“I just saw some girls crying,” he said. “One looked like a runner because of what she was wearing. She was sitting with a guy and another girl and she was asking rhetorical questions, like ‘Why would there be a bomb at the finish line?’ And ‘Why would this happen?’

“Another dude said, the way he heard it, it was like the two bombs were strategically placed at two locations — one at the finish line and one about 50 yards away. He said everyone was scattered; all order was gone.”

Former TCU soccer standout Lizzy Karoly stood approximately 1.5 miles away from the explosions, and said she was safe and unharmed.

She moved to Boston just a week-and-a-half ago for work and stood along the marathon path to support several co-workers who were running in the race.

She said she could not hear the explosions over the roar of the crowd, but news traveled quickly along the marathon course.

“We saw it on someone’s tweet and then about five minutes or so after seeing that the police started telling us to clear the area (and that) there was an explosion,” Karoly said via Facebook message.

From her vantage point on the course, people remained confused but calm as Boston police moved in to disperse the crowd, she said.

“At first everything continued as it was but then loads of police came and began to clear the crowd, but allowed runners to keep going,” Karoly said. “It was pretty calm for the most part, people were just looking for answers and direction.”

She said she was safe, but felt “creeped out” about the events, along with the crowds that dispersed around her.

“You could just sense a lot of anxiety in the area,” Karoly said.

The official Boston Marathon website, baa.org, allows for the tracking of individuals who registered for the race. Based on the organization’s information, 911 Texans were running this year. Of that group, 105 claimed to be from Dallas. Ten people from Arlington registered, too.

The website has a real-time tracking function that allows any web user to track a runner’s progress based on the runner’s bib number. From the website’s information, only two Fort Worth runners did not reach the finish line before today’s bombing. One man apparently didn’t begin the race.

As North Texans absorbed the news from Boston, Fort Worth’s police chief was thinking about the Main Street Arts Festival this weekend in the city’s downtown area.

“We are currently reviewing all safety and security plans for this weekend,” Chief Jeff Halstead said. “We will increase staffing for Main Street Arts Festival but will not disclose the manner in which we will make this a safe event for all attendees.

“We are also communicating with all of our planning partners in downtown as we learn more about the tragic events in Boston. As with all events, we will work closely with our Fire Department to ensure a safe event for all attendees, vendors, and residents.”

Meanwhile, Halstead added, “We are monitoring the situation in Boston and working with all of our federal partners to gather updated intelligence.”

Staff writers Nick Dean, Mac Engel and Deanna Boyd contributed to this report.

Bill Miller, 817-390-7684; Twitter: @Bill_MillerST