Olathe family survives Boston Marathon attack

Boston Police look at blown out windows at the scene of the first explosion on Boylston Street near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Boston Police look at blown out windows at the scene of the first explosion on Boylston Street near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images website)

Olathean Tom Kearney and seven members of his family, including his two grandchildren, were sitting in The Forum Restaurant on a sunny afternoon Monday, April 15, two floors above the street overlooking the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Copley Square. Less than an hour earlier they had been down by the barriers to watch his son-in-law, John Kohler, cross the finish line.

And then…

“John said he thought someone was setting off a cannon,” Tom said. “It was like everybody just stopped and looked; people thought somebody was celebrating Patriots’ Day. But in my mind, I was thinking, ‘That doesn’t sound like somebody firing a canon and that this would be the kind of place for somebody to pull some stuff.’

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, that can’t be a bomb.”

And then…

“About 7 seconds later, the second bomb that was closer to us went off. It was down and to the right as we were looking out to the street,” he said. “My wife Melinda said she saw orange flame. At that point we were very quickly and efficiently evacuated out the back way by the restaurant staff.

“The smoke drifted up and it smelled exactly like gunsmoke.”

Tom and his family were some of several Olatheans in Boston for the race. Also there were participant Patrick Wackerla along with his wife Jennifer, a student teacher at Mission Trail Middle School, runner and Mission Trail School teacher Stacey Sperry, and 1998 Olathe North High School graduate Matt Gronniger, who now lives in San Francisco. Read their accounts in a related article.

With Tom were his wife Melinda, their daughter Katie Kohler and husband John, their children Benjamin, 2, and Audrey Kay, 3 months, along with Katie’s grandparents Sue and Wes Jackson.

It was sometimes difficult for Tom to talk about what the family had just endured.

“In the back of my mind, I’m paranoid about everything,” he said. “The second explosion was…I’m shaking now. We had watched the race from the barriers and came up to the restaurant probably 1:15. The police are saying the bombs went off around 2:50 or 2:55. We were relaxing and then suddenly all this is going on; my grandson is crying, runners are finishing the race, and all of a sudden, this happens.

“It was pretty intense. They keep showing it on TV. I wish they would stop doing that.”

Two other packages with bombs, one that failed to detonate, were found under the viewing stands. Police dismantled one and the second was destroyed via a controlled demolition.

Despite the explosions, Tom said he thought the security for the race was good.

“It was incredible,” he said. “Covering this race were police officers on bicycles, uniformed policemen throughout the route. It was just so impressive. When this happened, they were there in nano seconds.

“But this is a heavier crowd that an Old Settlers Parade; about a dozen rows of people deep. People are walking back and forth and you don’t see anything and it would be easy to get something by them. But the fact two (bombs) were found under the grandstands, that’s scary. Security should be so tight you couldn’t get anything in there.”

It was John’s first Boston Marathon. He finished at 3:17:00. And it was the first time Tom and his family had attended a Boston Marathon.

“It was a healthy hike (back to the hotel),” Tom said. “We were all real, real, real quiet. Benjamin fell asleep while being carried home and so did Audrey Kay. It wasn’t until about halfway that you could finally exhale and get this feeling that, ‘OK, We’re going to be OK.’ And then you have to say a prayer for some folks.”

Tom and his family are schedule to fly back to Kansas City late Tuesday morning.

“It was a surreal experience,” he said. “But the main thing is that everybody’s safe.”

4 Responses

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