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Returning runners recall horror of bomb at Marathon finish line

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Marsha Kouba as she hits the 26-mile mark. Kouba passed the finish line just a minute before the explosion. Marsha Kouba as she hits the 26-mile mark. Kouba passed the finish line just a minute before the explosion.
Runner Kazem Yahyapour recalls the panic at the finish line Runner Kazem Yahyapour recalls the panic at the finish line
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Two explosions rocked the Boston Marathon on Monday, leaving dozens injured and many runners from the Triangle grateful to be unscathed.

WNCN reached out to many of them Monday night and Tuesday, both on the phone and in person at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Here are their stories:

Celia Mitchell, 56, Raleigh

"I was 40 yards from the finish line and I heard a big boom," said Celia Mitchell, of Raleigh. "I looked to my left and saw a big cloud of smoke and debris, and I just went, 'Oh goodness this is a bomb.'"

At the same time, Celia got an unexpected confirmation.

"There was a gentleman from Colombia running beside me and he said, 'That's a bomb,'" she said. "We just looked at each other and said, 'Let's go.' And we took off and ran fast as we could across the finish line and kept on going away from the scene."

"Mostly I saw people hit the deck and lay flat," Mitchell recalled. "Some people were just running away in the opposite direction."

For hours after the race, Mitchell was unnerved by her close call that happened during her third Boston Marathon.

"Normally you are jubilant to receive your meda,l but today I kind went, 'Oh, there's a lot of other things going on that are a little more pressing than receiving this medal,'" she said.

Kazem Yahyapour, 57, Raleigh

Kazem Yahyapour, of Raleigh, had just picked up his participants medal as the chaos unfolded around him.

"Everybody started running. People were shouting, 'Take shelter, take shelter, run away,'" Yahyapour said. "There were a lot of people panicking, and no one knew what was going on and everyone was running around."

For Yahyapour, the experience reinforced his determination to return to Boston.

"You can not let something like that keep you back. We can't let a crazy person out there stop us from doing something we love," he declared. "I'm going to qualify again, and go back and run my 10th consecutive Boston Marathon."

Alexis Foy, 40, Cary

Alexis Foy, a personal trainer from Cary, finished the marathon in 3 hours and 55 minutes -- only about a quarter of an hour before the bombs went off. Foy said she had finished and stopped to sit down to eat a banana a couple of hundred yards from where the explosion would happen.

Foy had just started walking toward the family reception area when she turned a corner and suddenly heard the explosion.

"As soon as I turned that corner, that's when the explosion happened," Foy said. "Someone next to me was like, 'Did you hear that?'"

Foy said she didn't realize what had happened until she reached her boyfriend, who said they needed to leave right away.

"He told me we needed to get out of there," she said.

Wayne Crews, 45, Cary

Wayne Crews, of Cary, was in the Boston Marathon with seven other runners and their families as well.

"When something terrible like this happens, it just puts a dent on the whole day," Crews said. "I hope everyone is OK, and everyone is praying for the people who were affected."

As for the stunning bombing at such a popular event, Crews said, "I guess it's the times we live in."

Bev Kesterson, 63, Raleigh

Another runner from Raleigh, Bev Kesterson, ran the race and was in Boston with her husband, James.

"The runners were going past me and there was this huge 'kaboom!'" James Kesterson recalled. "I had a sense it was some sort of bomb. And less than 30 seconds later, a second bomb went off.

"And then within three or four minutes after that, the policemen in front of me walking up and down the street signaled for the runners to stop. At that point, they shut the race down."

"To be honest," said Bev Kesterson, "I put everything in perspective and was just very thankful that my husband was OK and I was OK. And I hoped other people were."

Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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