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'Let's get out of here': Area runners, witnesses recall chaotic scene of bombing

BOSTON – John Simonson, of Fargo, had just finished the Boston Marathon with a time of 3 hours, 56 minutes Monday afternoon.

He collected his blanket and a finisher’s medal, then headed to a bus about 300 yards from the finish line to put on long pants. He waved to his wife, Kelley, and sister-in-law, Lynee Arnold, who were nearby.

Then he heard the blast.

It was so strong it seemed to reverberate off the skyscrapers of Boston’s core and back down to the asphalt street, then through Simonson’s body. He could see white smoke lifting from the ground.

“That ain’t right. Something ain’t right,” Simonson said. “To me, everything looked like it was going to blow up. I said, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ ”

About three hours after the winners crossed the finish line, a bomb went

off on the north side of Boylston Street. Another bomb went off just a few seconds later.

Simonson, 46, was one of 15 Fargo-Moorhead runners registered for the race. After hearing a second blast, he and his family headed toward Boston Commons, a nearby park where they soon encountered other runners who also were trying to figure out what had happened.

Simonson said that even though some thought the blasts could be something explainable – a mechanical issue on the street or something else – he was positive from the onset something sinister had just happened.

“They weren’t grasping the fact that a bomb just went off,” Simonson said of the others in the park.

Simonson spoke to The Forum on Monday afternoon from his hotel room, which overlooked Massachusetts General Hospital.

At the time of the call, the Boston Police Department had confirmed two people were dead and scores others injured in the blasts.

His voice, angry at times, regularly was interrupted by the sound of sirens.

“(Spectators) are packed in there at the finish line, and some (expletive) comes along and blows them up,” Simonson said. “Those bombs were big. More than two people are going to die. A lot of people are going to die.”

Later Monday, the death toll had reached three. The Associated Press reported that at least 134 injured were hospitalized, with 15 in critical condition.

Simonson said before and during the race he had felt very safe – the city was covered with police, firefighters and National Guardsmen for security.

Maria Weller, a 48-year-old from West Fargo, told The Forum on Monday that she had just finished the race and was about two blocks away when she heard the first bomb go off.

“I think people are rather horrified that this very American tradition has now suffered this tragedy,” Weller said.

Weller, who also was staying at a nearby hotel, said the mood on the streets of Boston was somber. She said there was a mild panic as family and friends from afar tried to reach runners.

“I couldn’t help but feel a little bit blessed I had made it through the finish but sickened for people that were there. It was the dichotomy of emotion,” Weller said.

Jon Owen, 57, of Luverne, N.D., finished his sixth Boston Marathon well before the bombs went off. He and his wife, Barb, and daughter, Laura Bourdon, of Fargo, were not injured, Owen said.

“It’s surreal,” Bourdon said.

“We’re pretty shocked,” Owen said. “It’s a big day for everybody. It’s just a lot of people, and there was a lot of confusion at the finish line.”

Fargo native Catherine Conlin is a Boston University senior who was volunteering in the marathon’s medical tents.

“Most of the people were visibly shaken,” she said. “I really couldn’t believe everything that was happening; this wonderful experience had turned into something horrible and traumatizing,” Conlin said.

Runner Austin Schieler took to Twitter to let his friends and family know he was OK.

“I and my family are safe! Thank the Lord! Pray for those injured at the Boston Marathon finish line!” the Fargo 21-year-old tweeted.

Staff at Beyond Running in Fargo said Fargo runners Chris Haas, 35, and Tanya Holte, 31, were OK after finishing the race.

Fargo runner Jarrod Danuser, 34, confirmed on Facebook he completed the race and was not injured.

Grand Forks native Nora (Narloch) Sellheim, a former North Dakota State University athlete, completed the race just before the explosions. She told the Grand Forks Herald that she and her husband, Jeremiah, were safe Monday.

According to the Herald, five runners listed their hometown as Grand Forks, including University of North Dakota professor Martin Short. Short said he was not injured.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

According to the Boston Marathon website, the 15 people from Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo registered for the race were:

•Victoria Cowles, 24, Fargo.

•Christopher Hass, 35, Fargo.

•Tanya Holte, 31, Fargo.

•Allison Pritchard, 26, Fargo.

•Tricia Promersberger, 43, Fargo.

•Lief Rasmussen, 25, Fargo.

•Jodi Roper, 42, Fargo.

•Austin Schieler, 21, Fargo.

•Eugene Simon, 47, Fargo.

•John Simonson, 46, Fargo.

•Jarrod Danuser, 34, Fargo.

•Bill Burns, 55, Moorhead.

•Steve Lindaas, 48, Moorhead.

•Kent Orvik, 32, Moorhead.

•Maria Weller, 48, West Fargo.

The race website also listed four other runners from the six-county region in Minnesota that includes Clay, Becker, Otter Tail, Wilkin, Norman and Mahnomen counties:

•Christina Floding, 42, Detroit Lakes.

•Scot Rownd, 43, Fergus Falls.

•Lynn Wolters, 47, Fergus Falls.

•Benjamin Geyer, 40, Henning.

There were the 25 other North Dakota runners listed:

•Chuck Allen, 54, Bismarck.

•Mark Amondson, 30, Williston.

•Jeremiah Bartz, 32, Bismarck.

•Lynn Beiswanger, 58, Bismarck.

•Tammy Bohan, 51, Bismarck.

•Holly Dannewitz, 32, Grand Forks.

•Scott Hanson, 27, Bismarck.

•Rachel, Hellyer, 36, Grand Forks.

•Sarah Hill, 29, Bismarck.

•Ray Hintz, 64, Bismarck.

•Jon Jensen, 47, Grand Forks.

•Julie Jeske, 51, Bismarck.

•Denise Kaelberer, 41, Bismarck.

•Lori Klabunde, 50, Bismarck.

•Sarah Mccullough, 50, Bismarck.

•Mark Momerak, 55, Bismarck.

•David Nash, 57, Bismarck.

•Jon Owen, 57, Luverne.

•Taylor Pintar, 20, Bismarck.

•Jacob Reed, 32, Grand Forks .

•Martin Short, 43, Grand Forks.

•Jeffery Steen, 30, Minot.

•Anne-Marie Studer, 30, Grand Forks.

•Kyle Sturdefant, 21, Minot.

•James Tyler, 49, Bismarck.