EDITOR’S NOTE: Tiffany Piplica Hartpence, a Fremont County Real Estate Agent in Lander, participated in the Boston Marathon on Monday. She provided this first-hand account of what happened after the bombs went off at the finish line Monday afternoon. Tiffany told us she was busy trying to get her family home on Tuesday, but took out time from her schedule to update us on where she was and what happened after the explosions:
By Tiffany Piplica Hartpence, Special to County1o.com
(Boson, MA) – Running has been a passion of mine for many, many years. My mom, Susie Piplica is a runner, and started running with me at about the age of 10. I would come home from school and run lap after lap around the block of my home in Riverton. I loved how running made me feel, I loved the sense of accomplishment and appreciated the simplicity of that good endorphin rush. In 6th grade I stared RMS XC and was hooked, running cross country and track through high school. After my senior year of high school I was fortunate to run for Montana State University-Billings, where I met my husband Sam who ran for the same cross country team. It was at that point I realized how much opportunity there is to see the world, and meet the world, as a runner. Be it a road race, a cross country/track meet or a trail run, a running event is unique in that one event hosts the nation, and in many cases the world. My husband and I spent our four years of college running across the country, and were blessed to have a coach that encouraged running as a lifelong sport to continually improve throughout a lifetime.
After having my two sons Alden (4) and Chase (almost 2), I couldn’t wait to put my running shoes back on and get moving. So ready in fact, I signed up for the Napa Valley Marathon, a Boston Marathon qualification course, almost immediately after Chase was born. Sam was really the person who inspired me to train specifically to compete in the Boston Marathon, a prestigious marathon known for it’s history as the oldest active marathon (117th year) and for it’s stringent pace requirements. I was over the moon excited to qualify for such an event, turning in a finish time of 3:31.
While training for Boston I realized how impressionable the sport and upcoming event had been on my two boys. Alden started asking me, “How was your run?” when I stepped in the door from a workout. About a month ago he said “Mamas never give up,” at that moment I knew it was important to take my kids to every race I could, to not be afraid to run our kids around the world and introduce them to a sport that has been so positive and defining in their parents’ lives.
We arrived in Boston over the weekend and were immediately amazed by the city. The history, the spirit of the people, the patriotism of the events and landmarks is something every American should experience. At the starting line, I felt like I met the world, 27,000 incredible runners from around the world shaking hands, exchanging gear/food, advising each other of the course ahead, laughing and smiling with people they just met. The support during the race was indescribable, never a silent moment, so much enthusiasm and cheering from the crowd, you heard the cheers echo for miles. I gave high fives to hundreds of little hands along the way.
Finishing with the Wave 2 runners
It was the heart of the event when I crossed the finish line along with the Wave 2 runners, grabbed my bag, a quick bite to eat and headed for our family meeting spot. The entire finish line area was absolutely packed with people as the second wave finishers were coming through and Boston Red Sox fans had just joined the cheering fanfare after the baseball game. About four thousand runners in Wave 3 were still on the course of the event. I was hardly able to walk, the same is true for just about everyone around me. I met up with Sam and Chase who had just returned from watching me at Mile 17, however my mom and Alden were at the finish line waiting for me to come through (they missed me in the crowd of finishers). Sam called my mom to notify her I was in and to meet us on Stuart Street, approximately a block around the corner from the finish line. He hung up the phone and about a minute later the ground shook and it sounded like a cannon had fired. The world felt like it stopped, the crowd went completely silent. The lady to my right saw my fear and said “Don’t worry, if that was anything to be afraid of you would have heard sirens by now.” The minute she said that, sirens came from every direction. Suddenly, a second boom in the direction of the finish line, where my son and mom were coming from. My heart sank. We scurried through the crowd and I caught my mom in my peripheral vision, holding Alden. It was a miracle we reunited in the midst of commotion, within a couple blocks of the bomb sites. “Mama’s never give up,” and even post marathon mamas run with babies on their back. We sprinted out of the area and found a residential block in the downtown area. Billy’s cafe was a small coffee and sandwich shop. We darted in with another father of two kids. Standing in the cafe, the third bomb fired. (Boston officials later said only two blasts were reported-ed.) We stayed put as long as possible, but recognized the employees needed to find a way out and return to their families, the restaurant was locked up and we sat on the street wondering where to go, and how to get there
Trying to escape the downtown area
Scared to take the subway system, we realized that may be our only option. The businesses were locking up, the taxis booked. We walked to the train station to find it was blocked with ambulances and were closed; we went the other direction and heard what seemed to be another boom. We would walk one direction and a rush of sirens would be headed toward us, we would turn around and the emergency service vehicles would be headed in that direction as well. Nowhere felt safe. The sound of the “cannon” echoed in our minds, we stood in the street watching runners help each other, emergency vehicles support those in need and the immediate action of every person to support someone else. I saw people voluntarily give up cab rides to others who needed to find their family. Stores that were supposed to be locked up unlock their doors to sweep my babies inside. The marathoners who were barely standing after the race were running, helping, solving and optimistically encouraging family members that they would find each other. Standing in the curb, as dusk started to fall, a kind man picked us up and took us to our hotel which was located in a small suburb of Boston.
Despite the horrific events of the 117th Boston Marathon, my hope is my boys continue to view running in the same perspective they had when they arrived, a way to meet the world and that the mamas never give up. In fact, I think they believe it even more.