Fuquay-Varina resident Matthew Loeffler had already run the Tobacco Road Marathon last spring. He had pinned on his bib, showing off the 3291. He had laced up his running shoes and had prepared for months.
Crossing the finish line at three hours and two minutes on April 15 was the icing on the cake for the first time Boston Marathon runner.
But he, along with his family, and thousands of others at the marathon never could have suspected what was to come.
Loeffler, his parents, sister and aunt were one block away from Boylston Street. That was the site of the terrible tragedy that rocked the city on Patriot’s Day in Boston when two brothers from the Russian province of Chechnya allegedly planted and detonated two explosions, killing three and injuring nearly 200 more.
“We had just missed the train and we were waiting for the next one,” Loeffler said. “We didn’t really know what it was at the time.”
He heard what sounded like fireworks or a car backfiring. But then they heard emergency vehicles and knew something was wrong.
As concerned friends and family started to get in touch with the Loefflers, they realized how fortunate they were to be safe. Loeffler’s family was only a couple blocks back from the finish line during the race. They actually had tried to move closer to the finish line during the race, but were unable to do so because of the large volume of people.
“If we had been there, that could have been us,” Loeffler said.
But, still, the N.C. State sophomore is proud of his achievement. He began training for the race in December. Already, he has qualified for next year’s Boston Marathon, shaving nearly 10 minutes off last year’s Tobacco Road Marathon time.
“I still love to run,” he said. “For me, the Boston Marathon is still a great race.”
It was a high-energy event. With people lining the streets the entire 26.2 miles, Loeffler and the other runners always had someone cheering for them.
“It’s an amazing experience to go through,” he said.
And Loeffler and the Nation can rest a little easier. Within five days, the Boston Police Department, along with federal agents and the Watertown, Mass., Police Department apprehended 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the attack. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed last week in pursuit of the alleged bombers.
During the week, it is alleged that the Tsarnaev brothers also killed a police officer from MIT and wounded another.
Dzhokhar, a college sophomore like Loeffler, was charged Monday with setting off a weapon of mass destruction during the marathon – a homemade bomb. While he is cooperating with the federal investigation, Dzhokhar cannot talk because of a gunshot wound to his throat. The wound may have been self-inflicted. His head, legs and hand also were wounded when he was captured late last week.
Authorities said this week that they are not led to believe there are any other potential plotters involved with the bombing. They do not believe there are any more bombs in the Boston area.
Contact Kelly Griffith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-552-5675.