BY REBECCA PALMER
BOUNTIFUL — About 15 minutes after Molly Richards crossed the finish line at the Boston marathon, she and her sister-in-law and heard a boom and saw smoke.
Maybe it was a normal part of the marathon, they first thought. Neither had been to the Boston Marathon before and thought the blast could be part of Patriot Day celebrations.
Then, they saw the smoke.
“It was not clear smoke, you could tell the debris was in it,” she said. “We thought, ‘That’s not just celebratory cannon smoke or something. Something’s happened.’”
It took a few minutes and a second blast, but soon panic hit the crowd, and all Richards and her sister-in-law could do was head back toward the finish line to find their car.
Richards, 36, made it home safe to Bountiful that night. After a few days of reflection, she says it is what she learned from the people of Boston that left the strongest impression.
Richards had moved up her plane trip from Tuesday to Monday evening, and knew before the race that making the flight would be difficult. After the bombings, getting to the airport on time seemed almost impossible.
She started pressing through the walls of panicked people, not knowing what else to do.
Many people helped her get to her flight along the way, she said, including the manager of the rental car lot, who drove them to catch their plane in his personal vehicle.
Once onboard, someone gave up a seat so she and her sister-in-law could sit together and talk through the experience.
“The impression that I came back with from the whole weekend was what an amazing city it was, how amazing people were,” she said. “People were so kind to us.”
West Bountiful runner Mike Stock finished the Boston Marathon about half an hour before the explosions, and was far enough away from the finish line that he didn’t see what happened. But when he heard the noise, he knew.
“When I heard it, my wife was with me, and I told her ‘Those are bombs,’” he said. “‘That just sounds like a bomb going off, two right in a row.’”
This year was Stock’s first Boston Marathon, but he has run two or three marathons every year for the last few years, he said.
The next day, he said it was particularly discouraging to learn that the people who were hurt worst by the bombings were spectators, because it is the spectators that make the Boston Marathon what it is. They line the streets throughout the course, he said, and were giving fruit, water and help to runners all day long. After the bombings, they let runners into their homes and ran toward the disaster to give blood.
“That race is awesome, just because of how the people are,” he said. “They show up in huge numbers just to support people.”
Both runners were frightened that day and may be better prepared for future big city races, but neither will hang up their running shoes.
“That’s what they want you to do is be scared and change what you do, so I don’t think I’m going to change anything about what I do,” he said. “I don’t know how you can protect yourself from something like that.”
Richards and Stock were among about 30 Davis County residents who completed the race. West Point Junior High School Principal Jed Johansen and his wife were among the first runners known locally to have survived the blasts. Online, runners who didn’t make it to Boston were looking forward with perseverance.
“Our heart goes out to the Boston Marathon and we encourage everyone running on the Layton Syracuse Marathon 2013 to try to qualify for Boston 2014 and run it,” wrote organizers on that race’s Facebook page. “If we live our lives in fear we will never do anything great like run Boston.”