Too close to tragedy

Too close to tragedy

Veterinarians who raced in Boston Marathon ask "what if?"
Jun 01, 2013

Her husband was at the finish line to see her complete her first Boston. Blissfully unaware of what was about to happen, Phyllis Sill, DVM, of Beloit, Wis., crossed into the finishing chute and then continued on to be wrapped in a mylar blanket by volunteers. "He saw me finish the race but I didn't see him," Sill says of her husband, Brad.

Runners participate in the 2013 Boston Marathon before two bombs injured hundreds and killed three.
It was just before 3 p.m. on April 15. Not seeing her husband, Sill went to collect her personal effects. "I was making my way over to the bus and I heard the first explosion," Sill says.

Since it was Patriots Day, she thought the noise was part of the festivities. "Most of us thought it was a cannon going off," Sill says. "And then another went off. We saw the smoke go up in the sky."

Dave Stevenson, DVM, of Abingdon, Md., finished about 10 minutes slower than he had hoped. "I was recovering from an injury. I hadn't run in three months," he says. Still, he finished the marathon—his 36th—with a time of 3:14:00. It had been a great day.

"I was on the shuttle back to the hotel," he says. "The driver said it just came through that something happened at the finish line. We didn't know what was going on. You think, 'I was just running there an hour ago,'" he says. "Everything was fine."

The news didn't get to Texas veterinarian Ward Conover, DVM, until he and his family turned on the television in their hotel room. Two bombs had exploded near the finish line. Nearly 300 people were injured; three—Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu and Martin Richard—were killed.

Like Stevenson, Conover finished about an hour ahead of the bombings. When he reached the finish line he looked around for his family, expecting to see his wife, Dianne, his children, Erica, Garrett and Kaleb, his niece and his sister-in-law smiling and cheering in the same location that later became a crime scene. "I looked right there in that area," Conover says.