Erin Sarris crossed the finish line about 25 minutes before the first bomb exploded. It was the third marathon completed by the Naperville resident, a sales associate at the Naperville Running Company. Her husband Louis, also a runner, was there as a spectator.
Sarris, 42, had just finished picking up her paperwork and medal and having her gear checked when she heard the explosion. She said she immediately thought of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, DC.
“I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it wasn’t thunder, because it was a beautiful, sunny day with just some high, puffy clouds,” she said. “When I saw the streets being cleared for ambulances, I knew something was wrong.
When she realized they were headed to where she had last spotted Louis in the crowd, around the 25-mile mark, she went rummaging hastily through her gear bag for her cell phone, and soon reached him.
Reunited, the couple began trying to return to their hotel in Cambridge. Because there were so many blockades erected by the responders, they eventually gave up and went to eat in a nearby restaurant and pass time until they could get through later in the day.
“I just remember sitting on my bed in our hotel, just watching the same footage over and over and over again,” Sarris said.
The familiar scene is still hard for her to watch. Sarris said on Wednesday, the day after the first anniversary of the attacks, that she had watched the occasion’s approach with some trepidation.
“Yesterday was an emotional day,” she said, her voice breaking.
She said she found it particularly cruel that the bombings ravaged spectators who were just out there to support the runners.
Although she qualified to return, she won’t run in Boston again on Monday, but plans to go back next year.
Sarris did take part in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon last October, and said she’ll be among the runners in the second annual Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon next November.