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Longview residents describe Boston bombing 'war zone'

By by Peggy L. Jones
April 16, 2013 at 11 p.m.

J.T. Peebles finished Monday's Boston Marathon with a time of 3:00:05 - a pace that propelled him and his father, Tim, to safety.

The Peebles were among three Longview residents who spoke Tuesday about experiencing Monday's deadly bombing first-hand.

Finishing almost two hours earlier, by 2:50 p.m. local time, J.T. Peebles had cleaned up and was sitting in a restaurant a block and a half away with his father when the two bombs exploded at the finish line.

The younger Peebles said he thought the rumble that shook the restaurant might have been thunder. But Tim Peebles said he was certain what he heard was something out of the ordinary.

"My first thought was a jetliner crashed or a helicopter crashed - there had been a lot of helicopters in the air video taping the race," he said. "I thought, 'I've got to check this out.' So I ran outside and saw the smoke plume and I knew something horrible had happened at the finish line."

It had. Two bombs exploded 12 seconds apart, killing three people and injuring more than 140 others. People were maimed by flying shrapnel, and some victims required amputations.

Instinctively, the Peebles rushed toward the finish line.

"But the police started yelling 'Clear the area! Get out!' I guess they thought there might be more bombs," Tim Peebles said.

The crowd was directed to the Boston Commons area.

"So we made our way there," he said. "For awhile it was pandemonium. Confusion. A war zone. No one knew what to think."

<strong>'Very strange'</strong>

J.T. Peebles said, in the aftermath of the bombings, many people wandered around, almost as if lost.

"People didn't know where to go," he said. "We'd planned on spending the whole day (around the finish line) celebrating Patriots Day. The transition from everyone celebrating then having to leave the area, it was just very strange."

He said the bombs exploded a little more than halfway through the race, and there were still about 9,000 runners who had not reached the finish line. The unfinished runners - many of whom trained for a year to be in the race - were told at mile marker 25 they could not finish, he said, adding to the chaos.

The runners who had not finished ahead of the blasts couldn't get to their bags stowed on buses near the finish line, which had become a crime scene.

"The wind was blowing and it was cold," J.T. Peebles said. "They couldn't get to their bags to change into dry clothes. They couldn't get to their cell phones or car keys."

He said some homeowners along the route offered shelter to runners who had not been able to finish.

<strong>'Still in shock'</strong>

En route back to Texas on Tuesday, J.T. Peebles said he was still trying to absorb the experience.

"I think I'm still in shock because the whole deal was supposed to be a joyous occasion for so many people. Runners train a whole year for this event. To have it turn like this is just too much to take in."

Speaking during a layover at an airport in Houston, Tim Peebles said he shuddered watching network television replaying the deadly explosion.

"What sticks in my mind - I was at the finish line. I stood there an hour and a half videoing runners. I can look at photos now and the bodies are lying exactly where I stood for an hour and a half - exactly in the bloodiest spot. Luckily, my son finished early."

<strong>'Such a tragedy'</strong>

Running her first Boston Marathon, Mary Suits crossed the finish line about nine minutes before the blast.

Competing there had been a longtime goal for the marathon runner.

"It's your bucket-list item you really want to do, and you're surrounded by people who have worked very hard to get there," Suits said Tuesday while driving home from Dallas.

"I got my bags, got my cellphone and heard something," she recalled.

At that distance, perhaps five blocks away, Suits said people assumed it was just "something they were doing at the finish line."

As she walked to meet her husband she saw people collecting at cars, listening to news.

"We heard something about a bomb, but we did not know how serious it was. We just thought the safest thing to do was to head to the hotel, which we did.

"Then people started calling, texting, asking if we were OK. I think when we realized how serious it was, that's when I realized something really tragic had happened."

Her sympathy was extended to the victims.

"The Boston spectators were wonderful. They were invested in the race. It's hard to think they were moms and sons and daughters waiting to see family members cross. It is such a tragedy."

Efforts to contact a third Longview runner in the marathon, Christopher Collier, were unsuccessful.



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