Close Call For Falmouth Residents At Race

Two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon shook the city yesterday, killing three people and injuring more than 140. No Falmouth residents have been reported injured, but those in Boston to participate and watch the race felt the shock waves.

Jeffrey Cutter of Walden Avenue, his wife, Jill, and their children Maeve, 12, and twins Phoebe and Sophie, 9, were sitting in the stands in front of the Boston Public Library directly across from the building where the first bomb exploded.

“I just happened to be staring at the building,” he said. “I saw the glass blow out and people go down in the street like rag dolls.”

Smoke filled the air, along with a distinctive odor like gun powder, he said. He witnessed the first responders running to the area as he and his family evacuated. “I saw many acts of kindness and that’s what Jill and I will teach our kids about what happened,” he said.

They left their cars in Boston and walked to a cousin’s home in South Boston.

Three members of the Pokraka family of Falmouth were also yards from the explosions. Gary S. Pokraka, 42, of Old Dock Road ran the marathon and crossed the finish line at 2:35 PM, 15 minutes before the first blast near the finish line.

His parents, Ronald F. and Claire P. Pokraka of Cachalot Lane, were waiting for their son in a hotel room rented by the Falmouth Track Club on the 11th floor of the Lennox Hotel, directly across the street from the second explosion.

Mr. Pokraka was looking out the window as the bombs exploded across the street. “It was just an awful mess,” Mr. Pokraka said. “The building shook and vibrated all over the place.”

For Mr. Pokraka, there was no question what had happened. “I thought it was a bomb. I was right in the middle of it,” he said. “I watched a bunch of people get blown up.”
Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Pokraka spoke with the flat effect of someone in shock.

“It was awful for the people that were in the middle of it,” he said. “I knew that there were going to be some fatalities,” he said. “I haven’t been around too many bombs in my life, but it was very real. You knew. You just knew.”

Cellphones were not working in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, but Mr. Pokraka received a text message from his son letting him know he was okay. It took about an hour for the family to be reunited.

Yesterday afternoon the Pokrakas and other members of the Falmouth Track Club congregated in the Westin Hotel, which served as headquarters for police. “We’re all together and we’re probably going to stay here for some time,” Mr. Pokraka said.

W. Robert Yates was at his home on Mullen Way, Falmouth, when the bombs exploded. His wife, Margaret, was in Boston watching the race from about the 30-kilometer mark miles from the explosions.

Cellphones were not working, but he did panic. “Within the hour I was apprised of her safety,” he said. It was reminiscent of September 11, 2001, for Mr. Yates. “All three of my children were in New York when the towers went down,” he said, and it took four hours to hear from them.

Falmouth Recreation Director Helen Kennedy volunteered at the start of the race in the morning, and was in Hopkinton with friends when the bombs exploded. “I’m still in shock,” she said this morning. “This was the 19th year that I volunteered at the start. What started out as an absolutely beautiful day turned to complete tragedy.”

Ms. Kennedy said security seemed especially tight at the start of the race yesterday morning, as police officers and dogs searched runners in the corrals. “There was so much security at the start,” she said. She saw Boston Marathon director Dave McGillivray in the morning and he said it was going to be a beautiful day.

“The Boston Marathon will never be the same,” she said. Mr. McGillivray is also the director of the New Balance Falmouth Road Race, but it is too soon to tell how the Boston Marathon bombings will impact the Falmouth race this summer.

Ms. Kennedy called everyone she knew who was involved in the race, including Courtney F. Bird Jr. of Sippewissett Road who usually watches the race with the track club in Boston. Mr. Bird had planned to be in Boston yesterday, but a burst water main in his front yard kept him from traveling. “I had to scrub the mission,” he said.

He heard about the bombings when the phone rang a few minutes after 3 PM. In the hours that followed, Mr. Bird and his wife, Carolyn, served as a communications hub for the members of the Falmouth Track Club to let them know that no one was injured.

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