Southlake educator not far from Boston blast

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Before the start of the Boston Marathon, Janet Blackwell sent a video back to her students at Rockenbaugh Elementary School in Southlake letting them know she would soon begin running.

The assistant principal had run nine previous marathons but this was her first time at the famed Boston race.

Hours later, emails and phone calls poured into the school from parents worried about the principal and her family who had joined her in Boston.

Blackwell and her family were unharmed. The first bomb exploded 18 minutes after Blackwell finished the race.

Blackwell, who was still in Boston on Tuesday, said in a telephone interview that she had walked about a quarter of a mile away from the finish line to wait for a friend when she heard the bomb. Her first thought was that it was a cannon blast celebrating Patriots' Day.

"Then I saw the smoke and, honestly in my heart, I knew this wasn't right," she said. "About 12 seconds later, there was the second blast and I just said 'You all, we are being attacked.' Everyone was just sort of froze. Everyone was very calm."

She and other runners weren't sure what to do, she said. She felt safer in the middle of the street than on the sidewalk where glass and debris could fall on her. Her immediate worry was for her husband, sister, mother and an aunt who she knew planned to gather at the finish line. But her cellphone wasn't working.

"I was kind of freaked out," she said. "I couldn't reach any of them."

It took about an hour before she finally reached her sister. Her family had been across the street from the bomb but was shielded from the blast by a building. They too had wondered if the explosion was part of some sort of celebration.

"All of a sudden a big group of people came running around the corner screaming about a bomb," she said.

Blackwell said the people of Boston were gracious to the runners. As she and her family walked away from the bomb site to make their way to their hotel, employees of restaurants and hotels gave them water and helped keep them warm.

Blackwell said she sent word back to her school that she was OK. She did not believe that school officials told students about the bombing, she said.

"That's too scary," she said. "They let parents talk to them about it."

Julie Thannum, assistant superintendent for Board and Community Relations for Carroll ISD, said in an email: "Carroll ISD staff, parents and students were very thankful to receive word yesterday that our Rockenbaugh Elementary Assistant Principal and fellow Dragon Janet Blackwell had finished the race at the Boston Marathon and that she and her family were unharmed despite being very close to the location where the tragic events took place.

"We are so proud of her and so very thankful she is safe. We look forward to welcoming her back to North Texas very soon."

Alex Branch, (817) -390

Twitter: @albranch1

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