Boston Strong

A former WCU track athlete describes the kindness of strangers in the wake of the marathon bombing

Morgan Turner ’12, a former member of the WCU cross country and track teams, was competing in the 2013 Boston Marathon on Patriots’ Day – Monday, April 15 – when she suddenly found herself immersed in a terror attack as two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people and injuring 264. A resident of Lincolnton, she recently completed her first year of teaching at S. Ray Lowder Elementary School. This is her account of what happened that day in Boston.

My race was going well, but at mile 25 I decided I would stop at a bathroom at the side of the course so I could sprint the last mile in and enjoy that final mile. I came out of the bathroom and started running into the city, where tons of spectators were gathered, cheering us on. I was so excited to be heading toward the 26-mile marker and finish line when I heard a noise like a cannon in the distance and saw a huge cloud of gray smoke coming up from the buildings ahead of us. I tried to rationalize it and thought that maybe they were shooting off cannons because it was Patriots’ Day and they were celebrating runners coming in. I had a bad feeling it was more but continued running and then heard a much louder boom and saw more smoke. I began to realize that this was not a cannon.

Morgan Turner

The police started streaming into the road and told us to stop running. Everyone was asking questions and trying to figure out what was going on. We could all hear loud sirens and saw police running toward the smoke. Runners then started to say it was a bomb at the finish line. At this point I really started to panic because I was positive my parents would be waiting for me at the finish line.

My phone had gone dead, so I asked other runners if I could borrow theirs. I started calling my mom and dad over and over again but no calls were going through. This made it even worse because I thought they had been where the bomb was and that their phones had been blown up. After 26 miles, your mind and body are not working right; when extra panic is added, it turns bad quickly. I started crying and fell to the ground because my legs could not hold me up anymore. Another girl around my age came and sat with me, and we both just sat there awhile in shock.

People who lived in the city were starting to come into the race route and offering phones to use. A Bostonian let me use her phone, and I texted my mom and did not get a response. About 15 minutes later, the Bostonian came back to find me to tell me my mom had texted back “yes” to tell me that they were OK. I can’t explain the relief I felt at that time, but I still did not know where they were. The police then told us we had to leave the area immediately. I wanted to go to the finish to look for my parents, but they would not allow us in that location. We decided to start walking to the family waiting area to see if our family members were there. Along the way we were both having a hard time walking and I was starting to get very bad stomach cramps so we had to stop for breaks.

During one of those breaks, a sweet lady named Donna had come down to the street offering her phone to every runner she saw so that they could contact their loved ones. She started calling my parents’ phone numbers while she walked with us to our bags, but nothing was going through. After we made it to the park, a lady named Savannah came down to help and texted my mom to tell her my location. Then, volunteers who had run from the scene of the finish line found us. When they were running from the scene, they had accidently taken the finisher medals with them. They gave both me and the girl I was with a finishing medal and said we had earned it even though we did not get to cross the finish line. I could not care less if I had finished; I just wanted to find my family. We were still worried because there were reports of more bombs in the area.

My mom’s call finally got through and she told the first lady from Boston where she was. The lady ran all the way to where my mom was and brought her back to where I was waiting. We finally got in touch with my dad and he found his way to the park. The Boston lady offered to drive us to the airport so that we could catch our flight to Charlotte. We finally touched down and got home to Lincolnton around 10:30 that night, where my sister, uncle and grandparents were waiting to see us. I have never been so happy to see Lincolnton in my life.

I cannot even begin to describe how thankful I am to those ladies from Boston and the people of the city. Without them, I do not know how I would have ever found my parents in the chaos or how we would have made it to the airport for our flight. They even offered to let us stay at their homes for the night.

The people of Boston streamed out of their houses onto the streets to help any runners who needed them. In a time when I was physically and extremely emotionally drained, these people stayed with me and went above and beyond to reunite me with my family. Those who did this horrible, evil act did it to the wrong city and the wrong group of people. Bostonians are a tough, proud, close-knit family – just like runners. We will be back to run the Boston Marathon again, and it will be the best and largest Boston Marathon the world has ever seen.

I continue to pray for the people of Boston and families of runners and spectators who were hurt and killed in this horrible incident. The bombs went off and we stopped running around 3 p.m. I did not see my parents until after 5 p.m. These were the longest two hours of my life. Yet, I was fortunate, because my family and I came out of this situation safely. Many others cannot say the same. I could not put it better than the statement we received in an email from the Boston Athletic Association, which read: “What was intended to be a day of joy and celebration quickly became a day in which running a marathon was of little importance.” Although this is a terrible way to be reminded, remember to always show your love and thankfulness for God, family and friends. These will always be the true things of importance.