A Seton Hall alumni proudly crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon in two hours, 59 minutes and 31 seconds on Monday. An hour and a half later, the first of two bombs that would kill three and injure more than 170 people detonated.
Andrew Felbinger ’12 ran his first marathon in March 2011, and qualified for the Boston Marathon in upstate New York in December 2012. At the end of February he began having foot issues, and up until a doctor’s appointment on April 5, he thought there was a strong possibility he would not go to Boston.
Felbinger started in the first of three waves of 27,000 marathoners around 10 a.m., and finished just before 1 p.m.
Felbinger, who was cheered on by his girlfriend of a year and a half, senior swimmer Brenna O’Keefe, explained that there are mandatory and optional post-race activities after the finish line that make runners inaccessible to the public for about half an hour.
The couple waited for a fellow runner in the second wave, and were “enjoying the festivities and atmosphere, listening to people cheer and watching everyone finish … until 2:40 or so,” Felbinger said.
After walking several blocks (about 150 yards, according to the couple) from the finish line area, the loud boom made passersby pause, but according to O’Keefe, no one made a big deal of the noise at first.
“It sounded more like construction equipment, almost like something falling, or something like that,” O’Keefe said. “We thought it was a car accident or something loud enough that we were like ‘oh, that’s something,’ but it wasn’t distinct enough that we thought it was a bomb.”
Felbinger said that he and O’Keefe continued walking to a friend’s apartment a few minutes away, and immediately turned on the news. That was when the texts and emails poured in.
“The worst part was that it was almost impossible to get in touch with anyone because the cell service was off,” Felbinger said.
“It was definitely almost like a surreal and humbling experience just to get all those texts and emails from people all across my phonebook, friends of mine who quite frankly I have no idea how they knew I was running the Boston Marathon,” Felbinger said. He added that friends he had not talked to in some time and people whose numbers he did not have stored in his phone asked if he was alright, and he responded to them regardless.
Felbinger said the Boston Marathon spectators are an inspiring and unique crowd.
“I high fived probably thousands of kids eight or nine years old,” he said. “Families and kids and college students just packed toe to toe, shoulder to shoulder, along the course reaching out hands and cheering. You could tell they loved this moment as much as we did running it.”
Felbinger said that this tragedy may hurt that spirit, and make families fearful to let their children run to the ends of their driveways to see the runners. “It’s great for the entire community of Boston and Massachusetts,” he said.
O’Keefe said she was thankful that the friends and runners that she knew were alright.
“Overall I think it’s just so heartbreaking because it’s such a happy time and happy event,” she said. “You meet so many people … my thoughts and my prayers go out to everyone.”
Junior Jackie Felteau grew up just outside the Boston area. She described the day as overwhelming.
“Seeing it on the news felt really personal,” Felteau said. “I knew these streets and restaurants and knew so many people who were there. You just never think that this is going to happen so close to where you live.”
Charlotte Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.