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Naperville runner at Boston Marathon: 'This isn't right'

Published: Monday, April 15, 2013 5:26 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:51 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo courtesy of Christine Bell of Naperville)
Runners slow to a stop in the Boston Marathon after two explosions went off at the finish line on Monday. A cloud of smoke is seen in the distance.
Caption
(Photo courtesy of Christine Bell of Naperville)
Boston police officers head toward the finish line at the Boston Marathon after two explosions went off on Monday.
Caption
(Submitted photo)
Amy Burns, girlfriend of Lisle Dick Pond Athletics manager Eric Brechtel, poses before the Boston Marathon on Monday with her bib. Burns was able to finish the marathon before the explosions at the finish line.

NAPERVILLE – Christine Bell was rounding the final turn of the Boston Marathon when she heard the two explosions.

"I heard it go off," she said. "Two of them."

She then saw a cloud of white smoke and thought, "This isn't right."

Bell, of Naperville, was about 400 meters from completing the marathon when two explosions went off at the finish line of Monday's race, killing at least three and injuring dozens. Someone nearby said the explosion sounded like a subway.

With the finish so close, Bell — a teacher at Naperville Central High School — kept running. She saw a bunch of police officers start to run toward the scene "like in a movie," she said.

Bell reached a point about 200 meters from the finish before one of those officers told her to stop.

"They stopped us and said, 'Just wait,'" said Bell, who was told the bombs went off in garbage cans.

After being pushed to the side, the runners were then told to move backward, Bell said. She reached the intersection of Boylston and Hereford streets, where she had made the final turn. But she didn't know where to go, so she started asking people for help.

A man who lived nearby gave her a sweatshirt to keep warm. Other runners around her were given trash bags, she said.

Eventually, Bell found her way back to the bus, where her bag was being held before returning to her hotel.

Bell, 45, has run dozens of marathons and is a member of the Dick Pond Fast Track Racing Team, which sent about 25 runners to the marathon, she said. The team is sponsored by Dick Pond Athletics, a running and sporting goods store with five Chicago-area locations, including one in Lisle.

Eric Brechtel, manager of the Lisle location, was standing in front of the LensCrafters on Boylston Street for almost four hours of the race, waiting for his girlfriend, Amy Burns, to reach the finish line.

Burns crossed the line after 3 hours, 55 minutes and 11 seconds. Brechtel and Burns then made the five-minute walk to their hotel. They didn't hear the news until they turned on the TV.

"We literally just missed it," Brechtel said.

About 10 minutes after Brechtel and Burns left the finish line area, the explosions erupted.

"I stood right in front of all those shops for like, four hours today, right where it happened," Brechtel said Monday afternoon.

Initially, Brechtel had difficulty notifying people that he and Burns were OK.

“I just got cellphone service," Brechtel said about three hours after Burns finished. "I couldn't even send texts. I would get a bunch of texts in waves, 10 or 15 in a row, but I couldn't respond to any of them."

Brechtel said the hotel where he and Burns are staying, the Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers near the finish line, was on lockdown and that he and Burns had been instructed to stay in their room. FBI agents were inspecting the lobby, he said.

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