Dr. Brian Lankford, recalls the sound of cheering spectators as he crossed the finish line April 15 at the Boston Marathon, but the noise that he’ll never forget is the one that made him and his wife Sandy look and each other and say, “Wow, what was that?”
It was the sound of a bomb that exploded near the finish line, about four hours into the men’s race. A second bomb went off seconds later. The celebratory mood of the event changed in a split second, as emergency medical services personnel and police arrived on scene.
“It all turned to concern about the safety of everybody,” said Lankford, a Tarboro optometrist.
Because of a last-minute decision that Lankford made, he and his wife were not at the scene of the bombing.
“There were a lot of people that were the victims of unfortunate circumstances – wrong place at the wrong time," said Lankford. "With me and Sandy, it was just the opposite. We were blessed with fortunate circumstances.”
Sandy was sitting in a blue canvas chair outside of the Lens Crafters and the candy shop, near the finish line. The plan was for her husband to join her there after he finished the race to watch the rest of the runners cross the finish line. Lankford decided it would be too much trouble to wade through the crowd back to his wife’s location, and he was tired. So he called Sandy and told her he was going back to their hotel – the Westin Copley Place. Sandy left the chair and headed back to the hotel to meet her husband.
“She left and probably 20 minutes later the bomb went off…There’s a blue canvas chair – It’s just there at the crime scene, 10 feet from where the bomb went off,” said Lankford. “There were terrible things that happened just because of circumstances. We could’ve just as easily been there. It hit really close to home.”
After the Lankfords heard the bombs, they went down and saw the ambulances and police cars. The reaction to the crime scene was swift, and so was the eagerness of Bostonians to lend a helping hand.
“They were extremely helpful to everybody who was there,” said Lankford. “It was just a natural thing do in the U.S., just to help somebody who needed something. People in the U.S., they like that feeling of helping others.”
The Lankfords wandered around the City of Boston for several hours after the bombing, with police first locking down the hotel where they were staying and then locking down the mall. They were finally able to return to their hotel room at about 7:30 p.m.
In Lankford’s view, the act of terrorism with the intention of instilling fear in the hearts of Americans and taking away their freedoms failed.
“It’s just random acts to scare people from doing the things they would normally do. They’re just stealing the freedom away from us,” said Lankford.
Lankford said he believes the Boston Marathon will go on next year and will be “bigger and better than it’s ever been.” The runners who continue to run the race and spectators continue to attend despite the tragedy that took place this year are sending the message to terrorists: “You can’t take this away from us. You did not succeed in what you were trying to do,” said Lankford. He has qualified to run the Boston Marathon next year, with a finishing time of 3:19. He hasn’t made a decision about whether or not to participate next year, but says, “the option’s there.”
“I got to run my marathon, but because of the situation, you just realize there’s a potential for bad things to happen. It makes you more cautious, makes you more aware of your surroundings…You’ll be looking around.”
The bombers, 19-year-old Dzokhar Tsarnaev, was captured by police on Friday. The other bomber, Tsarnaev’s 26-year-old brother Tamerlan, had previously died during a confrontation with police.