The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

April 17, 2013

Local Boston Marathon runner unharmed in bombing melee


TARBORO — Dr. Brian Lankford had crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon Monday afternoon and was back at his hotel (the Westin Copley Place) when he heard the sound of an explosion.

Two bombs that went off near the finish line at the Boston Marathon about four hours into the men's race turned what would've been a triumphant moment for some runners into a tragedy. Lankford, an optometrist at the Eye Care Center in Tarboro, was running the nation's oldest marathon for the second time as his wife Sandy rooted for him on the sidelines. Lankford's stepdaughter Jennifer Strickland, who remained in Tarboro during the marathon, described Lankford's finish as "bittersweet."

"He got there. He did the race exactly like he wanted to do it," said Strickland. Lankford finished the race in 3 hours and 19 minutes, close to his goal of 3:15.

"You want to be proud of him...but you've got the heartbreak of all the runners who trained and then couldn't finish the race because they were stopped," she said. "It's overshadowed by tragedy."

She said some of the phone lines are down and cell phone reception is spotty but she was able to talk with Lankford and Sandy briefly this morning and she's just glad they're safe.

"Their hotel is 50 feet from the medical tent where people are being taken to. They're right there in the middle of it," said Strickland. "They're shaken up. They're just lost."

Sandy commented before she and her husband left for the Boston Marathon that Lankford's first time competing in the race, in 2011, was the time when runners broke several world records.

"It was nice," she said. This year's experience has been very different for the Lankfords, who plan to return home today.

President Barack Obama issued a statement about the bombing at the Boston Marathon Tuesday morning.

"We know that two explosions gravely wounded dozens of Americans, and took the lives of others, including an 8-year-old boy," said Obama. He called the act "heinous and cowardly" and informed the public that the FBI is investigating the bombing as an act of terrorism. Whether the act was carried out by a foreign or domestic terrorist organization or by a "malevolent individual" is still unknown, Obama went on to say.

"I have extraordinary confidence in the men and women of the FBI, the Boston Police Department, and the other agencies that responded so heroically and effectively in the aftermath of yesterday's events. I'm very grateful for the leadership of Gov. Patrick and Mayor Menino," said Obama. "And I know that even as we protect our people and aggressively pursue this investigation, the people of Boston will continue to respond in the same proud and heroic way that they have thus far -- and their fellow Americans will be right there with them."