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Local competitors caught up in chaos

Lehn
Associated Press
Medical responders run an injured man past the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday. Local runners were among the 27,000 who competed.

The Rev. Arianne Lehn of Fort Wayne had just been reunited with her husband and parents at the family reception area at Monday's Boston Marathon when they heard two loud booms coming from the grandstands near the finish line about two blocks away.

"None of us knew what they were. The ground beneath us didn't shake, but they were loud," she said by telephone about 90 minutes later. "Then we saw police and ambulances coming from everywhere."

Lehn, associate pastor of Fort Wayne's First Presbyterian Church, had finished the 26.2-mile race about 30 to 45 minutes before two explosions rocked one of the nation's premier running events – and sent shock waves through the Fort Wayne area's runners' community.

At least 15 runners who live in or have ties to the area were scheduled to compete, according to the race's website.

At Three Rivers Running Company in Fort Wayne, employees spent the afternoon taking calls and checking social media for word of area competitors, said Liz Schloss, sales associate.

It was very difficult to determine the status of runners and those traveling with them, she said, because cellphone service was spotty and towers were shut down for a time, making it difficult even for social media postings.

"I think a lot of us are just shocked and upset, just because this is one of the biggest marathons in our country. It's a very big day for us (runners)," she said.

"I think our biggest concern is making sure everybody is OK and just thinking about those who were out there competing."

By late afternoon, the store's Facebook page had postings saying several runners had been heard from including Lisa Collins, Grant Stieglitz and James Pauley and his family, all from Fort Wayne.

Also reported fine was Alissa McKaig, a former Concordia High School and Indiana Tech standout who was running in the elite division.

Reached on her cell phone, McKaig, who placed eighth in the marathon at the Olympic Trials last summer, said she had finished about 90 minutes before the explosions. She and her parents were walking one street over from the course, headed to lunch, when they heard two loud booms.

"It was kind of like 'What was that?' " said McKaig, who finished 27th in 2 hours, 25 minutes. "At first I thought grandstands fell down, and I thought, 'That's not good.' Then a guy walked past us muttering something about a bomb.

"We kept walking toward the corner and people were just running away from the course, and I knew it was something bad. We didn't know what it was, but we definitely knew it was something bad. We heard the explosions and then sirens and there were cops everywhere, and then we started hearing it was a bomb and just more of the details.

"Crazy. Just sick," she said.

Anxiety filled the Fort Wayne home of Dorothy Reichwage, the 94-year-old mother of runner and dentist David Reichwage of Fort Wayne.

"No, we haven't heard anything," she said around 4:30 p.m. "My other son is trying to get ahold of him."

Bill Reichwage said he had left a message on his brother's cell phone, but had not heard back by 7 p.m. "No texts, no nothing," he said.

Reichwage said his brother was traveled with another runner. That runner's mother had called Reichwage's mother and said everything was OK. But he had not been able to confirm that himself.

On the race's website, David Reichwage was reported to have passed the marathon's halfway point in just under 2 hours, 30 minutes, a pace that, if continued, would have put him at the finish line in 5 hours. But the website does not have him listed as finishing.

Media reports say that after the blasts, runners were diverted away from the finish line, so he might not have finished for that reason. It's also possible that he, like many runners who attempt Boston, which has a reputation as a difficult marathon, dropped out on his own accord.

A call to Reichwage's cellphone at 6 p.m. reached his greeting and a message that the voice mailbox was full.

Besides those accounted for on the Three Rivers Running Co. Facebook page, several runners are listed on the race's website as being from Fort Wayne and finishing.

They are Megan and Ryan Campbell, Kevin Kelly, Paul Later, Winston Samarasingha,Ashley Sprunger, Thomas Trent and Gina Venturelli.

The Fort Wayne Track Club's Facebook page listed the Campbells and unidentified runners from the Angola area as safe by 9 p.m.

At First Presbyterian, about 40 staff and congregation members had gathered to watch the race on a big-screen television, hoping to catch a glimpse of Lehn. But the news coverage ended, and most left or went back to work, said Danielle Gonzalez, office manager.

Not until Gonzalez's mother called after hearing the news on the radio did the worry start, Gonzalez said.

But Lehn's husband, the Rev. Jeffrey Lehn, First Presbyterian's pastor, was able to post an update on Facebook by 3:30 p.m., so the anxiety was short-lived.

Arianne Lehn was finally able to call the church around 4 p.m. "I had so many texts and messages and cellphone coverage was in and out for a long time," she said.

Lehn had involved the congregation in the marathon by using it to raise money for charity – a bone marrow transplant program that had aided her father, Thomas Braithwaite of Sioux Falls, S.D., who had accompanied her to Boston.

After the explosions, Lehn said she and her family members went into a nearby building and watched news coverage.

"We heard people out on the street talking about how there were limbs and blood everywhere at the finish line," she said, adding the news footage was "very disturbing."

She said some subway stations were closed, and she expects delays at the airport when leaving today.

"People are walking around the city now, and going back to their hotels, and they just look shocked and scared," she said. "Scary."

rsalter@jg.net

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