Explosions at the Boston Marathon rock local runners and their families.

Boston, New England and the whole country were rocked on Monday as two bombs were set off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, where at least three people were killed and more than 170 injured.

Unfortunately, the explosion hit even closer to home for runners from Westbrook and Gorham and their families, who were at the race on Monday. Luckily, no one from the area has reported injuries.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has taken over the case, working with more than 30 law-enforcement agencies, including the Boston police and Secret Service. As of the American Journal deadline on Wednesday afternoon, Boston police and the FBI have not reported any arrests.

According to a press release from the FBI, items recovered at the scene of the explosions include pieces of black nylon, possibly from a backpack, and fragments of BBs and nails, which could have been included in the pressure cooker bombs. The blast evidence is headed to a forensics laboratory in Virginia, where scientists will study the remnants for clues on the culprit or culprits. The blasts were felt well beyond the marathon finish line. Jason Meers, 27, told the American Journal he was working in his office building on Summer Street, nearly a mile away from the finish line, when the explosions reverberated through his building.

“You could feel it, even from here,” he said.

Already the FBI has received more than 2,000 tips, and President Obama has declared the attack “an act of terror.”

Pam J. Bither, 42, of Westbrook, finished the Boston Marathon after 3 hours and 38 minutes – just a few minutes before the bombs exploded right in front of her eyes. This was Bither’s third time at the Boston Marathon, and her 6-year-old daughter and two friends were standing on the opposite side of the street from where the bombs went off. No one in her party was injured.

“I was looking right in the direction. I was headed back toward the finish line and saw them, one right after another. When it first happened, everyone around me just stopped in disbelief. My first thought is, ‘Are they safe?’” Bither said.

Bither said she was about 100 yards away from the explosions.

“Everyone was in a panic and I just couldn’t believe what was happening. I didn’t know where to go. No one is safe,” Bither said.

She said the smell and the smoke surrounding her and the other runners was something she’d never experienced. Bither was able to calm her daughter by giving the child her iPod so she’d be unaware of the panic around her.

While Bither said she will run the marathon again, it has made her think whether she and her family are ever really safe.

“Everything just changed in a split second. You ache. It’s a wonderful time and such a great event. To end in such a horrific tragedy, I don’t know. I just don’t know,” Bither said.

Dr. Jeff Rosenblatt of Gorham, a cardiologist, was running in his first Boston Marathon in honor of a fallen Marine, Lt. James Zimmerman of Aroostook County, who lost his life in Afghanistan, and his family.

“I was personally running for the fallen,” Rosenblatt said.

But, he didn’t have the opportunity to finish the race.

Rosenblatt recounted his marathon story for the American Journal by telephone in a short break Tuesday afternoon as he resumed his regular medical duties in Portland.

Rosenblatt, with a pack of some 4,000-5,000 runners behind him, was stopped at about the mile 25.9 marker of the 26.2-mile marathon.

“We didn’t know why we were stopped,” Rosenblatt said.

Meanwhile, his family was near the blast site, but they were not physically hurt. He said the explosion was right in front of a row of flags from the world.

He later learned his wife and daughter had been in the grandstand just 50 feet from a blast.

“They witnessed the explosion,” Rosenblatt said.

Word of the explosions reached Rosenblatt and other halted runners through Internet reports.

“It was pretty horrendous,” Rosenblatt said about not knowing about safety of his family. “I was separated from my family for four or five hours.”

Rosenblatt was not near a place to help victims.

After four hours of running from the race start, Rosenblatt and the others halted short of the finish line didn’t immediately have available water or snacks. He said a local man gave him a sweatshirt.

“People were offering clothes off their backs to runners,” Rosenblatt said.

He said his family had walked five miles to their hotel in Cambridge. Wearing a foil-type covering given to runners, he got to busy Storrow Drive, which runs along the Charles River, and was trying to flag down a ride.

“A lot of people drove right by me,” he said.

Finally, a taxi driver stopped and gave him a ride.

Rosenblatt said the taxi driver encouraged him to stay for the night as he and his family had planned, or else those responsible for the blasts would win.

He and his family left the Boston area on Tuesday morning, and it took a while to get out of Boston. “My wife and daughter are shaken up,” Rosenblatt said the day following the ordeal.

Melinda Shain of Gorham, a member of the town’s Planning Board, also didn’t finish the Boston Marathon. Shain was among a group of other runners stopped by authorities in Newton, about six miles from the finish in Copley Square.

Shain said volunteers brought food to refresh the runners, who were halted.

“Volunteers at my stop were wonderful,” she said.

Shain had intended to meet her husband and family at the finish, but the explosions disrupted their plans. She and her family were re-united at the Fenway subway stop.

Although a marathon veteran, Shain was running her first Boston Marathon. She ran despite being stricken with a stomach illness throughout the race. It was a “rough” day, she said.

She was still feeling ill, compounded by the tragedy, when contacted at home in Gorham on Tuesday.

Shain was barely able to talk and spoke just a little above a whisper.

“It was so sad,” Shain said about the horrific incidents. “So upsetting.”

The University of Southern Maine held observances Wednesday on its three campuses to show support and sympathy for those impacted by the bomb explosions. Dahlia Lynn, associate provost at the university, and the Rev. Shirley Bowen, Episcopal chaplain at the university, led the Gorham observance that included a moment of silence.

Before the observance, Bowen, when asked, offered a message for Boston: “We can’t make sense out of a senseless act, but we can in tragedy seek to find meaning and compassion.”

Maine Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday ordered U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff through sunset on Saturday, April 20, in respect of victims at the Boston Marathon tragedy on Monday.

Witnesses with information about the explosions are urged to call 1-800-494-TIPS.

A gathering on the Gorham campus of the University of Southern Maine on Wednesday supports families of victims in Monday’s tragedy in Boston. University President Theodora Kalikow, a native of Swampscott, Mass., in an email said the observances were “to show our solidarity and sympathy for all those directly affected by the bombings.” Staff photo by Robert Lowell

Flags at the Westbrook Public Safety building were lowered after Maine Gov. Paul LePage ordered U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff through sunset on Saturday, April 20, in respect of victims at the Boston Marathon tragedy on Monday. 
Staff photo by Robert Lowell


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