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LO runners escape injury in Boston blasts

Multiple Lake Oswego residents crossed the finish line less than a half hour before twin explosions shattered the post-race euphoria at the Boston Marathon on Monday.

The tragedy touched the lives of other residents as well, whether they were running the race, watching from the sidelines, working on the marathon’s medical team or worrying about loved ones from across the country.by: SUBMITTED - West Linn's Dave Harkin, who owns Portland Running Company, heard the explosions but didn't see them.

Three people were killed and 176 were injured in the explosions that happened at about 2:45 p.m. in Boston, or 11:45 a.m. on the West Coast.

On Tuesday, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber ordered all flags at public institutions to be flown at half-staff until sunset Saturday.

“Our thoughts are with the victims, their families and the people of Boston,” Kitzhaber said in a statement. “The Boston Marathon draws participants and spectators from around the globe, including hundreds of Oregonians, and we thank those who responded quickly and heroically to help those in need.”

About 350 Oregonians were among the more than 27,000 runners who raced in the annual event. That included a handful from Lake Oswego. Nine Lake Oswego residents were listed as signing up for the race, and of them, six clocked in finishing times.

Lake Oswego’s Byron Gaddis, 56, finished the race 15 to 30 minutes before the explosions. Speaking by phone on his way home from the East Coast on Tuesday, he said his family was fortunate their experience was dull in comparison to the possibilities.

“I was walking with some other people and we heard a tremendous explosion, a huge blast,” he said. “We turned around but didn’t see smoke. ... We wondered what was happening. Almost instantly sirens were going off and emergency vehicles began flying around.”

His wife, Amy, and adult daughters, Emily and Vivian, had waved as he passed at mile 21. They then hopped on the subway. That’s where they were when the bombs went off.

Amy Gaddis said they avoided the finish line on purpose: “It’s a zoo usually.”

“The subway was super slow,” she said. “We were pretty close to being under the finish area when the bomb went off, and we didn’t hear a thing.”

And they were lucky they had decided to stay in a different place than they have past years — this was Byron Gaddis’ sixth time in the Boston Marathon — opting for a boutique hotel about a half mile away from their usual choice right by the finish line. They were able to meet up with Byron Gaddis pretty quickly after the explosions, and their hotel stayed open while others in the area were evacuated.

Amy Gaddis said she didn’t feel panicked, especially because she knew her husband had already finished and left the race’s ending point. She noted that if she had heard the blasts, she might have had some trouble distinguishing them from festivities earlier in the day. Cannons were shot off as a parade passed by their hotel room Monday morning — a bone-rattling, loud noise to visitors unaccustomed to the traditions of Patriots Day in Boston.

Byron Gaddis said the family was especially thankful for all of their friends, family members and co-workers concerned about them back at home.

“We were very fortunate,” he said. “I’ve read some stories about people saying they won’t go back, but that’s not what I’m going to do. I will be back.”

Mayhem at finish line

Back at the finish line it was mayhem.

Authorities have reported that the bombs were made in pressure cookers loaded with explosives as well as nails and pellets. They were reportedly packed in black bags or backpacks, and they exploded about 500 feet apart and within 10 or so seconds of each other. As of press time, the FBI hadn’t yet named any suspects in the attack, and there were conflicting reports of whether law enforcement officials had a suspect in custody.

Another Boston Marathon runner listed from Lake Oswego is Dr. Leigh Lewis, 43. She was unavailable and still out of town Tuesday afternoon, according to the office manager at Synergy Women’s Health Care in Portland, where she practices. However, Lewis, despite being pretty close to the explosions — she crossed the finish line at 2:24 p.m. — was not injured, according to her staff.

Lake Oswego’s Ted Lillie, 28, who wrapped up the race in two hours and 38 minutes, at 12:38 p.m., was also safe.

On his Facebook page, he said the tragic event put things in perspective: “So many people were just doing what they love.” He wrote that while he was happy with his finishing time, it was hard to think of anything other than the victims of the attack.

He also told friends he was far from the finish line when the bombs blew, “but we could definitely hear them.”

“It is overwhelming to see so many people thinking of us; thank you all,” he wrote. “I’m sorry I was unable to directly respond to many of you. It was a very hectic day with cell service out and rushing to catch an airplane after the race, but I really appreciate all of the thoughts of support.

“One of the saddest things to me is thinking about the kids ... literally thousands of them ... who lined the course for 26 miles treating us like rock stars, reaching feverishly to the runners for high-fives and cheering like mad ... really just enjoying a beautiful holiday. I hope they don’t end up living in fear.”

Lake Oswego’s Dr. David C. Nazemi, a hospitalist in internal medicine at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center in Tualatin, was at the marathon for the ninth time, volunteering at the event’s medical tents, said Alisa Cour, public relations specialist at Meridian Park. Nazemi’s role went from treating marathon runners for various ailments, pains and dehydration to helping with triage for the numerous bomb casualties. Nazemi was not injured.

Nearby Oregonians also affected

Oregon Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton was at the event. He said he spoke to West Linn-Wilsonville School District Superintendent Bill Rhoades, who was receiving his medal at the time of the explosions — putting him just about 150 yards away from the destruction. Neither was injured.

Two couples from the West Linn Lutheran Church — Bob and Romayne Harding and Gail and Terri O’Donel — had family members participating in the marathon, but all were reported safe on Monday.

West Linn resident Dave Harkin didn’t see the explosions, but he certainly heard them.

Harkin, who owns the Portland Running Company, and his wife, Paula, were sitting in their room at the Lenox Hotel about 90 minutes after Dave Harkin had finished running when they heard the first explosion. The building rattled, and it was immediately apparent that something major had happened. They ran to the window just as a second explosion went off right below their room at the intersection of Exeter and Boylston streets.

“Our initial reaction, my wife’s especially, was to immediately get out of the building,” Dave Harkin told KPAM anchor Diana Jordan. “We weren’t actually allowed to do that; we got to the lobby and were turned around. We got back up to the room, and we saw two very major casualties right out in the middle of the intersection where the second explosion happened.”

The scene, as Harkin recalled, was “surreal.” People were running away from the blast area while emergency workers rushed in to treat the casualties. As Harkin put it, the scene had turned from “a sense of celebration to a panicked, very high-intensity situation.”

“Within minutes,” Harkin said, “everything was sirens and emergency vehicles ... civilians running one way, and EMTs and emergency personnel running the other way to try to get a handle on what had happened and what was possibly going to continue to happen.”

Amidst the chaos, with scores of people still walking through the streets in all directions, Harkin tried to put the events in perspective.

“We just came and ran and were luckily outside of the rest of it,” Harkin said. “It’s a great tragedy, it’s very devastating.”

— Reporters Patrick Malee and Geoff Pursinger of Pamplin Media Group and KPAM Anchor Diana Jordan contributed to this story.



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