Boston Tragedy Hits Close to Home Here In the Crossroads
Susan Hlavinka was sitting in her hotel room when she heard a bang that sounded like a cannon.
Terry, her husband, thought he heard someone slamming a door. He had finished running the Boston Marathon for the first time 45 minutes before and was showering.
Neither thought much of it at the time. Soon, though, the tragedy playing out near the end of the marathon's 26.2-mile course at Copley Square would be clear.
"It's Patriots' Day, so it didn't cross my mind something bad happened," Susan said. "It was such a perfect day. Something like this was the furthest from my mind."
The couple from East Bernard were in their room at the Westin Hotel at Copley Place when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 140 others Monday afternoon.
"It took us awhile to figure out what happened," Terry said Monday evening from their hotel room, located a block away from the finish line. "It became clear that something happened."
"I noticed people were moving tables out of the street and thought to myself, 'No way is the race over,'" Susan recalled. "That was my first indication."
From the 34th floor of their hotel, the Hlavinkas watched ambulances come and go for hours and the runners' medical center converted into a triage center. Helicopters circled overhead, and they were advised not to leave the room.
"It was somewhat chaotic, as you might imagine," Terry Hlavinka said about 6 p.m. "The street below us is still filled with parked cars of the first responders."
Cuero native Eddie Rocha had left his office in Boston that is four blocks from the finish line of the marathon minutes before the explosions occurred.
Unaware of what happened, Rocha turned on his car radio and quickly learned of the explosions. His first thoughts went to his friends who were running in the race.
"I had a lot of friends in the race," Rocha said. "One of them was 100 meters away from the explosions. He fell down when it happened. He said there was a lot of blood and people without limbs."
Rocha has lived in Boston since 2001, when he left Texas for college. He described the mood as one of shock and fear.
But his immediate concern was for his friends.
"We're still trying to find some guys," Rocha said.
Concerns over friends and loved ones wasn't limited to Boston.
Despite cellphone service being cut off in the area for a brief time, people tried frantically to make contact with friends and family, including Sarah Matina Tims, of Calhoun County.
"My friend Amanda was running in the race," said Tims, who has been friends with Amanda for 15 years. "I wasn't sure what to think. All I could do was hope my friend was fine."
It took her some time, but Tims finally received the good news she was looking for.
"I found out on Facebook. Her husband put up a post saying they were OK," Tims said. "I felt a lot better knowing that she was all right."
This was Terry Hlavinka's first time running the marathon in Boston, and it may not be his last.
"This wouldn't deter me from coming back," Hlavinka said. "I'm not sure I was going to plan on coming back anyway. They do whatever they can to protect the runners."
While running the 26.2-mile course, Hlavinka did not see anything unusual or anything that stood out in the hotel room after the explosions.
"There was no breakdown in security from what I saw," he said. "There was a strong police presence."
By 5:30 p.m. Monday, the Hlavinkas were allowed to leave their hotel room but not the hotel itself.
Despite at least one other device found in the area, the couple wasn't nervous or scared.
"It's more sadness and disbelief," Susan Hlavinka said. "At first, I was appalled and mad. I couldn't imagine, couldn't understand why someone would do this. It is such an awesome event. I feel horrible for the families involved."