Will Maltin was on his way back from a distance workout at Chestnut Hill’s Valley Green Park when he began scrolling through his Twitter feed.
Soon, the freshman distance runner would realize this was not just any Twitter session when he strayed across the first reports of a deadly bombing at the annual Boston Marathon that, as of Monday night, left at least three people dead, more than 140 injured and an entire country paralyzed in shock.
“I was on Twitter and I saw a running website that I follow posting something about [the bombing],” Maltin said. “I thought it was analogy or something seeing the word ‘explosion.’ I didn’t know what it was until I saw that the Associated Press had posted something about and the New York Times too, and I was just shocked.”
An event annually celebrated citywide in Boston quickly turned into a horrific scene as two explosions within seconds of each other near the finish line brought turmoil and tragedy to one of the city’s proudest traditions. Multiple reports indicated that an eight year-old boy was among the three casualties in the bombings.
“I feel like with races like the Boston Marathon and big charity races like it, the last thing I would expect is for someone to try to hurt other people during it,” sophomore distance runner Cullen Davis said. “I’ve been to a bunch of road races and I can only imagine how shocking it was to see an explosion like that. Like its disbelief. I think it’s crazy honestly that someone would actually do that.”
Maltin’s first thought when seeing the Twitter and news reports of the tragedy was of friends and family who participated in the race.
“It was scary to me,” Maltin said. “Especially because I had two of my former high school coaches running in the race [Monday] along with a bunch of my family friends from my hometown. I immediately tried to contact them before I knew the Boston cell service was shut down and I couldn’t get in touch with them. My one coach and all his family members are all fine and my other coach too. They were not affected at all … but obviously a lot of people didn’t fare as well.”
Maltin, a Harrington Park, N.J. native and a graduate of Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan, wasn’t the only member of Temple’s track & field distance team who had personal connections with the bombing.
Freshman Steve Flynn’s track coach from Edison Township high school participated in the race, as well as a former high school teammate of women’s distance runner Anna Pavone.
“I know someone who goes to [nearby] Boston University and then my high school coach ran at the meet today,” Flynn said. “When I first found out he was at the marathon, I texted him to make sure he was OK.”
“I had a teammate from high school run it in today,” Pavone said. “She got to finish it and got out of there before the bombing happened.”
The bombing left much of the country in the all-too-familiar, widespread feeling of shock and anger primarily felt in the past year in the mass shootings in Aurora, Co. and Newtown Ct.
“It’s clearly a huge event for Boston,” Maltin said. “It’s something that everybody comes out for. All of the Boston schools are shut down for the day and it’s something that everybody comes out to watch. For all of these marathoners who train all year and come down for it and for everybody there, it’s a big tragedy. It’s not something I could’ve ever thought would happen. It’s never even crossed my mind. It’s not really a thought that something like this, a terrorist attack, could happen at a big event like the [Boston Marathon]. It’s not something you would expect.”
“It kind of makes you think,” Davis said. “People are crazy out there and they’re always going to try to find a new way to do something. A marathon is so long that there’s a lot of ground for security to cover. You can’t close down the whole city and it’s pretty crazy that things like this really can happen and people can find ways like this to inflict damage.”
Despite the attack taking place at a mass running event, Maltin said the bombing hit home due more to his being an American citizen as opposed to just being a runner in his own right.
“It definitely does hit home, but at the same time I can’t think of it as something that affects me more personally as a runner as opposed to a citizen of the United States,” Maltin said. “We don’t know what type of attack it was yet, but I can sympathize with everyone who was there and it definitely does hit home.”
“But it’s not as much of a running thing for me as just a general attack on the city,” Maltin said. “Knowing how runners are and a lot of the people who were probably there, we’re a very tight knit group of people and it’s something those families are going to be able to get through together.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @daParent93.