LA CROSSE COUNTY, Wis. (WKBT) - Many in Boston on Monday paid tribute to those killed and wounded during the bombings at the Boston Marathon last year.
A delegation of survivors and elected officials marched across the finish line before a moment of silence for the victims of the bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260 people. Several survivors shared their stories, while others shared memories of those lost.
Among the thousands of runners last year, two local individuals say they can still remember where they were just before their triumphant finish, turned into a tragic event.
Laura O'Flaherty and Ryan Callan finished the race last year before the bombs went off; and they weren't injured. Although a year has passed, the memories from that day are still fresh in their minds.
"I heard a loud boom, turned around and saw all the smoke," said O'Flaherty.
O'Flaherty finished the race about 20 minutes before the first bomb exploded.
"Because it was about 100 yards away, I could see the smoke rising from the finish line, which was the first bomb, and then I could see the smoke from the second bomb, which was at the last turn before the final stretch of the marathon," said O'Flaherty.
Callan was making his way through the finish line.
"I was preparing to get out of the area when I heard what I thought were fireworks. It was about 4 blocks away and I didn't understand exactly what it was because I didn't have a direct line of sight," said Callan.
Within minutes, the feeling of accomplishment Callan and O'Flaherty felt quickly turned to shock.
"I just remember people coming up to me and saying, 'What do you think that is? What is it? Were you close to the finish line? Do you have anyone at the finish line?' Really concerned," said O'Flaherty.
"It was utter disbelief. What had happened? Who had done this? Why here?" said Callan.
Many of those questions have now been answered, but it doesn't stop them from wondering, what if?
"You kind of feel guilty that you weren't there helping," said Callan.
"You do have this sense of, boy, what could I have done? I don't know what I could have done differently just to help," said O'Flaherty.
A year later they're hundreds of miles from the finish line but the Boston bombings will never be too far from their memory.
"I was thinking back on the good and bad of last year, getting to be part of that was really special. It was a great event, but now I look at it a little differently," said Callan.
"I think just about every run I'm doing, especially a longer run. If I am training for something or thinking about doing a marathon, I think about them, what it's like for them now," said O'Flaherty.
Both of the runners hope to go back someday, whether it is to cheer on the runners or participate again.
Even though they are back in Wisconsin, they said their hearts will be with those in Boston participating in the marathon on Monday.
According to the Boston Marathon website, there are 18 people from our area who qualified to run in the Boston Marathon this year.
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