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On Monday, Boston Marathon runner Joaquin Gutierrez and his family came as close to a national tragedy as they ever want to get. Gutierrez had just finished the race in 3:21.54.
Forty minutes after the Los Alamos National Laboratory employee crossed the finish line, the bombs went off. Though by that time, Gutierrez, his wife Deanna and his three children were safely back in their hotel, he doesn’t like to think about what could have been.
“My family was right in that area,” he said, speaking of the area where the bombs went off.
“My little kid was very excited because they had a candy store right there. I believe it was called Sugar Heaven. They knew that was the area because it was very congested.”
A note on the Sugar Heaven Facebook page, posted by a David Sapers, said
“We all at SUGAR HEAVEN (sic) would like to thank the thousands of you who have written, texted or called to make sure we are all OK and we at SUGAR HEAVEN (sic) want all of you to know we feel extremely lucky that none of us were injured.
“The staff acted in a terrific manner in dealing with customers in the store and those out front who needed help and we are very proud of them.
“We also express our deepest sorrow for those injured and the families of those who passed away do (sic) to such a horrific event.”
The Gutierrez’ hotel, the Marriott Copley Place on Copley Square, was facing toward the finish line.
When the explosions went off shortly after 4 p.m., Gutierrez said they could feel the entire, 1,000 room hotel shake.
“My first reaction was ‘wow, they’re shooting off a cannon’. It shook the hotel,” he said.
“We ran to the window and that’s when we saw the smoke and the people running,” Gutierrez said. “Then we heard the second blast, and at that point, everyone was looking out the window. We then went to turn on the TV and all they were showing was live video.”
As the tragedy played out before them on the television,, the Gutierrez family thought about the victims and what they were going to do next.
They left the hotel, and after managing to find something to eat, they arrived back at the hotel to find the police had taken over the lobby.
“They had it all cordoned off, and they said we either had a choice of going outside or going into your rooms because we’re going to lock down the hotel,” Gutierrez said.
The police apparently wanted to do some searches of the general area and they didn’t want any people or bags out there, said Gutierrez.
“The kids were terrified,” he said. “They were pretty shaken up, and they didn’t want to go back to their rooms.”
What made it worse he said, is that when they made the decision to go back to their rooms, they didn’t take them back by the usual route.
“They took us back by the service elevators,” he said. “That just added to our sense of fear,” he said.
When they got to their room, they could see police officers and military on the roofs of the other buildings with bomb sniffing dogs.
“It was a very eery feeling,” Gutierrez said. “You had a S.W.A.T. out there with rifles and paramilitary gear and it just seemed like they really expanded their search area as well as clamped down on security.” Hotel security was even checking for hotel keys, he added.
Even in the days after the race, Gutierrez noted increased security on the subways as the National Guard checked bags.
As they were boarding the plane to go home, there were even police asking people if they had any pictures or video footage they could have.
When they got home, Deanna was able to connect to a website and send them a few pictures, Gutierrez said.
This was Gutierrez’ second time running the famous marathon, having run the event last year.
Though he and his family were shaken up that day, he feels things will get back to normal and it will not prevent them from traveling and attending national events, especially marathons.
“I do believe (the marathon organizers) did everything they could, under the circumstances, ” he said.
“It’s a 26-mile course, and they couldn’t have done anything differently. I would be playing Monday morning quarterback to say otherwise.”
The next marathon Gutierrez wants to do is New York. “We have to keep on going,” he said.