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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 30, 2014

Fairfield man reflects on experience at Boston Marathon

By By Rusty Ebert | May 03, 2013

Keosauqua and Fairfield businessman Tom Louden thought at the start of the Boston Marathon that the race would be remembered for the outstanding weather and large crowds. Instead, it’s known for the tragedy which happened at the finish line.

Louden, 52, owner of Van Buren Abstract and Jefferson County Abstract, has run at the marathon before. In fact, this would be his sixth finish.

Skies were sunny, and temperatures in the 40s at the start of the race, but this year’s marathon would be remembered for tragedy that occurred when two young men allegedly set off two bombs that killed three and injured scores of onlookers.

Louden was fortunate. He had finished 55 minutes before the explosions. His sister was even more fortunate, she had just left the area around the finish line and was four blocks down the street when the bombs went off.

Louden joined 27,000 other runners at Hopkinton High School, where the marathon has traditionally been started for years. It is held every year on Patriot’s Day, a state holiday.

“It was a gorgeous day for the Boston Marathon,” he said. “It was 40 degrees at the start of the race and crystal clear skies. This was my sixth marathon and it was the best conditions. I don’t think I have seen the crowds that we saw that day, the whole way. The crowds just got bigger along the course.”

Louden finished the 26.2 mile race with a time of three hours 23 minutes and 36 seconds. He was 323rd in his age division, the 4787th male and the 5454th overall.

“I didn’t have a great race, but any time you cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon, it’s a good race. I finished just after 2 p.m. and went through the post race activities for the runners. I got my medal and went to the bus which carries stuff you leave at the start of the race to the end. I was walking to the hotel and just as I was getting there I started to hear a lot of sirens, non-stop. You hear sirens in downtown Boston, but nothing like this.”

Police were responding to two explosions that were allegedly set by brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The blasts killed three and injured more than 200 people.

Louden and his wife, Carolyn, went up to their hotel room.

“Carolyn was on the computer and said to me, there’s been some bombing.”

Tom’s sister Nancy, from Kansas City, was downtown and heard the explosion.

Nancy attended the marathon to watch Tom run.

“She never attended before. She watched me finish and then wanted to wait around. It was a pretty day and she wanted to take it in. After a while she decided to leave and was four blocks away on Boylston Street and she heard the explosion.”

Boylston Street was where both explosions occurred.

“It sounded to her like it was right there. The percussion from the explosion was shielded by the skyscrapers and traveled down Boylston Street. It sounded like a cannon shot. Minutes before, she was standing at the finish line where the bomb went off. She was very fortunate.”

Nancy went back to her hotel, but communication was tough. Police suspected that cell phones were used to detonate the explosives, so early in the investigation, all cell phone communication was cut out, Louden said.

“I could send a text, but that was it.”

Tom and Carolyn decided to get a bite to eat.

“We went to the North End Market Place, we were very hungry for their ribs. So when we get there, it’s shut down by police. We saw another restaurant down the street and went there. It was still open, fortunately.”

Louden said the mood of the downtown quickly changed.

“It was pretty surreal. Usually, the whole downtown was hopping at this time, after the race, but police were literally shutting the entire city down.”

After they got back to the hotel, they talked with a runner from California.

“He was with another California runner and his friend had just crossed the finish line when the blast hit. He said, ‘You just can’t imagine what happened.’”

Louden said that, from what he saw, he believes that the brothers messed with the wrong city.

“I’ll say this. The kids chose the wrong city. Boston is a great city, very tough and they have lots of pride,” he said. “They threw every resource they could at finding who did this. The police commissioner said on TV that night that any officers on vacation, anybody with time off, they were called in to work 12-hour shifts.”

Louden also noted that the emotions in Boston were on a roller coaster ride.

“It went from having a great feeling to being in shock and couldn’t believe what happened,” he said. “It was a bittersweet day. The tragedy made everything else seen inconsequential.”

The next morning, on Tuesday, the Loudens went to the airport very early.

Law enforcement officials figured runners would leave the next day and wanted any information they could to help in the investigation.

“We were heading to the concourse area getting ready to board the plane, a guy in blue jeans and a sports coat approaches me. He sees my runner’s outfit and said, ‘I’m with the FBI. Could I ask you a few questions?

“He wanted to know what I saw and any observations I might have had.”

After getting done with the interview he was approached by another law enforcement official, this one from the Massachusetts State Police.

“Same questions. I thought, boy they are hitting it hard. Nancy didn’t get questioned because she didn’t have a runner’s outfit on.”

When the Loudens landed in Chicago, there were three reporters waiting to interview anyone wearing a runner’s jacket.

“I was getting tired of talking about it,” Louden said.

But overall, Louden is just thankful he and his family are safe.

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