By Harrison Maina and Moses Mathenge, AjabuAfrica.com
BOSTON, MA-- The increasingly popular Boston marathon celebrations by the Kenyan community in the Boston region were abruptly thrown into disarray today. Sudden heavy blasts reverberated at the finish line moments after Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo won the first position in the women's race. Micah Kogo of Kenya clocked in second in the men's race after Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa turned tables on the Kenyan elite male champions by crossing the finish line first.
The scary blasts that resulted in 3 fatalities and over 140 injuries disrupted transportation plans for at least 14 Kenyans and their children who got stuck in Boston after most of the subway train system was shut down. Two Ajabu Media reporters spotted a Kenyan dad and son stranded near Boston commons as they walked towards Hay Market. The father's cellphone had run out of charge and the reporters' cellphones were used to locate a family member who picked the duo after an hour of anxious waiting. The reporters could not use the subway train system because it had been closed as a security precaution.
The now re-united family generously offered the reporters a ride out of town. However, soon afterwards the car stopped at a nearby street corner when it encountered 10 stranded Kenyans with frightened children in tow. The Ajabu reporters gave up their seats for the stranded Kenyans and bravely watched the tightly packed SUV zoom the families to safety in the suburbs. Frantic telephone calls were then made to a Kenyan who resides in downtown Boston to come and rescue the weary reporters.
No Kenyan elite runner was hurt as the bomb blasts took place more than one hour after the top runners had crossed the finish line.
However, local Kenyan diaspora runner, Titus Mutinda of Lowell, Massachusetts, narrowly escaped the blast as he crossed the line barely 20 minutes before the explosions. As news of the bomb blasts spread in the mainstream and social media, many Kenyans from out of state and the motherland called their kin to enquire about their safety. Kenyans are known to swarm the finish line in big numbers to cheer their athletes and take pictures.
Kenya fans in New England expected this year's Boston Marathon to be a another repeat of last year’s triple-double (in both male and female categories).They woke up early with great enthusiasm and expectant energy and headed to Copley Square in down town Boston to join a sea of humanity that snakes its way all along the route and ends up at the finish right in front of the giant screen that televises the event live. This strategic position at the finish line is treasured by both Kenyans and their Ethiopian counterparts.
About an hour before the blasts, Kenyan fans lined up along the route had sustained a long duration of loud cheering and adulations as the marathoners raced from Hopkinton town, past Newton's Heartbreak Hill, and down Boylston street into Boston's finish line. The first expected victorious moment came when Rita Jeptoo crossed the finish line at Copley square to win the women’s 2013 title. Moments later Micah Kogo scooped the second position in the men’s category. Kenyan and Ethiopian fans cheered loudly as each of their national anthems played out on loudspeakers as the champions were presented with their hard earned crowns. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, bestowed the honors on the winners.
As usual, when all the top Kenyan runners had crossed the finish line within fifteen minutes of the winner's time, the Kenyan fans retreated to their favorite restaurant VLora just a couple of blocks from the finish line. This is the place they go for lunch and refreshments as they wait for the official awards ceremony that usually takes place at 5pm at the Fairmont Copley Hotel, a short distance walk from Vlora. Many Ethiopian fans had also long cleared the finish line area.
It was while the fans were enjoying their meal at VLora that the television beamed the explosion and the ensuing chaos that erupted at the finish line.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that another group of Kenyans were holding a parallel marathon lunch party at the Globe Restaurant, one block away from their countrymen at the Vlora Restaurant.
Before the sumptuous meals had settled, police officers burst into the underground restaurant and ordered all to vacate with immediate effect. As the Kenyans took to their heels, Ajabu Africa reporters caught the journalist’s bug and jumped courageously onto the street scene to cover the developments, only to find more than they had bargained for - a total lockdown.
In a scary but organized operation, sirens rang in the air as both security and paramedics arrived in hordes. At this juncture everyone was ordered to clear the finish line and move away as far as possible.
However, before all could clear the site, there came another deafening blast. It was the third blast.
A security officer shouted loudly to onlookers and media personalities taking pictures, “It’s for real, you got to run for your lives. Leave this scene now!” The officer did not need to stress any word as everyone took to their heels away from the scene. Within no time the entire down town Boston became police town with countless regular and undercover police cars hunting for the perpetrators of the vile act. They raced back and forth with their sirens and emergency lights on. Dozens of ambulances criss crossed many Boston streets as they rushed the injured to different hospitals within the city.
It was during this commotion that Ajabu Africa reporters spotted the Kenyan father and son stranded at Boston Commons. “This is unbelievable. We have been stuck here since 3pm when I called my sister to come pick us up. Then my cell phone lost charge as soon as I told her I am waiting here. She does not know specifically where we are positioned,” said Patrick Kariuki of Randolph as he waited patiently with his 6 year old son.
“Let us use your cell phone to call my sister again right away”, he requested Ajabu Africa reporters. According to Kariuki’s sister, Judith Mwangi, it took her three hours to drive from Randolph to Boston, and almost two more hours to drop off each of the families at their homes in Quincy and Brockton.
“It was so hectic. Many of the roads in Boston were closed. The GPS was directing me all over as I figured out how to get around. There was police everywhere, but I thank God I was able to finally re-connect with my family and other stranded friends,” she told Ajabu Media.
She thanked Ajabu Media reporters for helping her stranded brother reconnect with her.
Up to this moment, it is not clear whether there was a Kenyan or Ethiopian fan who got injured in the blasts. Ajabu Media is also not aware of any Kenyan stranded in Boston.
All planned marathon night parties in the city were also cancelled as folks were urged to stay indoors by the governor.
Editor’s note: Three people were killed and over 170 people were injured by the alleged “pressure cooker” bomb. No one has been arrested as of April 18, 2013.
This was printed in the April 21, 2013 - May 4, 2013 Edition
Update: Two alleged suspects were involved with this bombing. One is deceased and the other was injured in the bombing as well.