The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 15, 2013

Why area woman left site an hour before bombing

Eric Knopsnyder
eknopsnyder@tribdem.com

— A Somerset County woman stood and cheered as her husband crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon.

About an hour later, the first of two explosions ripped through that same area, killing at least three and injuring dozens.

Hours later, Jessica Deakins still was stunned at how close she came to the tragedy.

“I absolutely feel fortunate,” the Meyersdale woman said in a telephone interview from Boston. “He was an hour and 10 minutes ahead of the explosion.”

Tom Deakins, 46, who was running the Boston Marathon for the second time, completed the course in a little more than three hours.

As he watched television reports from about a mile away, Tom Deakins was still trying to comprehend it.

“It’s shocking. Everybody here is very stunned,” he said. “It’s crazy. It’s something that is going to stick in my mind forever. This is my 26th marathon. It was just a routine run.”

At least it was until the explosions turned the sporting event into a grisly, chaotic scene.

Jessica Deakins watched her husband compete from a few spots along the route, but she couldn’t help but reflect on those who were with her near the finish line.

“I think about all of the people in the crowd that I stood with and conversed with,” she said.

“They cheered when my husband finished. Their loved ones were slower. I’m certain that many of them were still in that spot.”

She said the police presence in the area was impressive before the explosions and that she had to walk several blocks just to find a garbage can.

“For someone to have carried this out, they were extraordinarily bold,” she said.

Jessica Deakins said that she and Tom were inundated with calls and text messages from family and friends in Somerset County checking on their safety.

“I’m overwhelmed by the love and support of Meyersdale, but I’m not surprised,” she said. “Both of our phones are practically dead. They’re not just worried about us, but our kids, who are at home. They would have been with us, but their sports schedules would not allow them to come.”

Another Somerset County native wasn’t at the race, but he was only a few blocks away when the explosions hit. Sam Zimmerman, who grew up in Stoystown and is a 2008 graduate of North Star, was on his way to his job as a risk analyst at Boston Technologies when the explosions hit. He was commuting via the subway and didn’t find out about the tragedy until he got to his office, which he said is a 10- or 15-minute walk from the area of the explosions.

“I wasn’t really aware,” he said. “I didn’t hear anything until I came into the office.”

Once he did hear the news, he reached out to find his friends and family members.

“My first thought was to text everyone I know,” said Zimmerman, who had a friend running in the marathon and a roommate who was scheduled to attend but decided not to at the last minute.

Like Jessica Deakins, he heard from plenty of people from Somerset County.

“It’s pretty intense,” he said. “A lot of texts – a lot of people I haven’t talked to in a while.”