PB man crosses line hour before bombs went off

Editor's Note: This story is being reposted from April, 16, 2013 because it won a Top 10 award in the national APSE contest.

Monday was already a memorable day for Jeremy Booker.

An hour after the 35-year-old Poplar Bluff man crossed the finish line at the 117th Boston Marathon it became a day of tragedy when two explosions ripped through the crowd, killing three and wounding over 140.

Fortunately for Booker, his wife, Carrie, and mother, Cheryll Link, they had enough time to get back to their hotel at the Westin Waterfront, which is approximately 2 miles from where the blasts occurred.

"It was about an hour before (the explosion I finished the race)," Booker said via phone about an hour after the bombs went off. "My wife and mother were there watching. We had actually got in a cab and were at the hotel (when) it actually happened."

Also on hand in Boston were friends of Booker -- Poplar Bluff husband and wife attorneys John and Kendra Scott.

The Scotts were wrapping up a post-race lunch at Turner Fisheries -- about two blocks away when a loud noise rattled the area.

"We finished our lunch and we hard a large boom and then another boom," John Scott said. "People around us obviously heard it and wondered what it was.

"People pretty much immediately thought it was a bomb."

Scott said there was quite a bit of confusion. But worry grew as Boston's rescue workers sprang into action.

"When the emergency responders went by, people started freaking out a little bit," Scott said.

The Scotts decided to find a way back to the hotel, the same one where the Bookers were staying.

"We definitely saw a lot of police and ambulances," Scott said. "My wife and I headed straight for the subway. We got on it real quick and they closed down some different stations so we got off at one that we didn't want to get off at. We had to walk a long way back to our hotel."

Booker and Scott both train in a running group around Poplar Bluff. John and Kendra Scott decided to travel to Boston to support Booker's way to the finish line in his Boston Marathon debut.

"We run together," Scott said. "We have a running group and he happens to be our fastest runner. I'm not nearly as fast as he is but I enjoy running. I've done a couple half-marathons and a couple of full-marathons. (His wife also has run a marathon.)

"I just wanted to come out here to see just the spectacle of the Boston Marathon."

John said he took in the action of the race very near where the first bomb went off at the 26.2-mile marker near the finish line.

"I was roughly at the 25 1/2(-mile marker)," Scott said. "As soon as he crossed I went around to congratulate him but I didn't stick around after that."

The Scotts didn't linger long after Booker reached the end of the race.

"I watched Jeremy get to the finish line and I walked around congratulated him and then I met my wife for lunch," Scott said.

Booker said his wife and mother watched the race from about the same area.

"It looks like it was located to a pretty narrow area," Booker said. "My wife and mom were watching for me to come in. It seems like (the bombing) was kind of a random deal. Just luckily it didn't go off as I was coming through."

Booker completed the race in 3 hours, 9 minutes, 37 seconds. He was 3,347th.

The first bomb exploded at around 2:50 p.m. EST when the race clock read 4:09:44.

Although Booker didn't see or even hear the blasts, getting around instantly became hectic.

"Travel around the city was pretty much gridlock as far as the train station," Booker said.

Booker and his family, as well as the Scotts, all had scheduled flights to depart Tuesday morning.

A catastrophe like this didn't even cross Booker's mind. He is a lifelong resident and a 1996 Poplar Bluff High School graduate.

"Maybe coming from a small town you take it for granted and you'd never think of it," Booker said. "It's going to cost the city of Boston millions of dollars."

The race itself immediately became an afterthought, although Booker had a good day on the course.

"The race went well," Booker said. "I had to run under 3:10:00 to qualify for Boston and I ran a 3:09:31 (at the Chicago Marathon) for that and I ran 3:09:37 today. Just a few seconds slower but still a time I was real happy with."

Conditions were very good for the run Booker said.

"Last year is about 85 degrees and runners really struggled to get finished," he said. "Today, it started in the mid-40s and finished in the mid-50s.

"Perfect day for running for sure."

The Boston Marathon is the only American race that requires a qualifying standard. The New York Marathon features a lottery system and most other major races are on a first come, first serve basis.

It was just the third marathon Booker had run -- the other two being the 2005 and 2012 Chicago Marathons.

The time Booker ran Monday qualifies him for next year's Boston Marathon. Booker's immediate thought was he wasn't sure about next year's race.

"I'm qualified to run Boston again next year but at this point, I can't actually imagine if they don't run it," Booker said. "I don't know."

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