Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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April 5, 2014

Boston scare

Texas women recall experiences near spot of Marathon day explosions

Athens — For decades, the Boston Marathon was the best known race of its kind in the country. Today, the name is also connected with tragedy.

Three women who pounded the streets of the historic city were at Lake Athens Baptist Church on Friday to tell the audience of the 2013 Crime Victims’ Conference of East Texas what they saw and heard the day bombs marred the 117th running of the race in April, 2013.

Jennifer McAlister of Fort Worth, Toni Biggerstaff of Keeler and Chimene W. Fikkert of Arlington call themselves the Soul Sisters. The friends saw a day that began as a dream-come-true was shattered by the act of terror that killed three, and injured an estimated 264 others.

McAlister said she and her running partners posed for a photo at the Boston Marathon finish line on race day and posted it to Facebook,

"This will be our happy place on Monday after the race,” McAlister posted.

But each was stunned by the events that would occur on Boyston Street that afternoon. The happy place at the finish line became chaos when the explosions were detonated.

McAlister said she and Biggerstaff ran together for most of the 26-mile course. At one point, they approached Team Hoyt, a frequent sight at marathon races, consisting of a father, who runs while pushing his son in a wheel chair. McAlister stopped to take their picture before continuing on her way.

“I was seven seconds away at the time of the first bomb,” McAlister said. “If I hadn’t taken that picture, I would have been standing there when that first bomb went off.”

Biggerstaff was on the 26th mile when she heard the first explosion. She looked up, and saw only white, puffy clouds, and wondered about the sound. Soon, police and marathon officials ordered them to stop.

“I was thinking about how the delay would affect my time,” Biggerstaff said.

Then she got a text telling her of the bomb.

Fikkert said coming down the home stretch on Boyston Street, she drank in the colors and the shadows of the old buildings, then crossed the finish line.

“I felt all of the emotion of a 10-year dream realized,” Fikkert said.

She thought about waiting for Toni and Jennifer to arrive at the finish line, but remembering that Marathon officials frowned on people crowding the finish line, proceeded to where the photos were being taken.

Friday, they each told the Athens crowd how their faith in God helped them through the blasts and the aftermath. McAlister said each of the women wore shirts with a scripture on back.

After the race, a man in the crowd was harassing her about the shirt. A stranger stepped up, and told the man causing the commotion to go. The stranger sent several texts to McAlister’s husband, Jason, and later helped her connect with him at the hotel. Later, when Jason tried to find the man’s number in his cell phone to thank him, there was no record of any of the communications.

“I don’t know if he was an angel or not,” McAlister said. “But that day, he was my angel.”




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