Hawaii runners safe, but stunned after Boston Marathon blasts

Hawaii runners. Photo credit: Angela Kwong.

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Each year, Hawaii’s top marathoners qualify to compete in the Boston Marathon. This year, about 50 Hawaii runners made up the Hawaii contingent. The good news is that all of them are safe and accounted for.

The day started with smiles and high hopes for Hawaii’s Boston Marathoners, but the mood changed four hours and nine minutes into the race.

“It was definitely very loud and clear,” Hawaii runner Angela Sy said. “It’s pretty crazy. You wouldn’t think people would target a marathon.”

“We were just taking pictures and all of a sudden we heard two blasts about five seconds apart,” Hawaii runner Mike Kasamoto said.

Many people, like Carole Higa, initially thought it was a cannon paying tribute to runners.

“We could see the gray smoke that came out the puffs of smoke and then the second explosion, and then I knew something was wrong,” Higa said.

Michael Higa was waiting for his wife, Carole, with other Hawaii families.

“Then we heard the second one and we kind of thinking there’s something not right,” Mike Higa said.

“They told us to evacuate the tent they wanted everybody out of the changing tent,” Carole Higa said.

“Very, very loud and there were two — one after the other. And smoke coming out and I thought my heart sort of stopped,” Hawaii runner Angela Kwong said.

Most of the Hawaii runners had completed the marathon when the explosions happened, but several were still on the course and were diverted to safe areas including 78-year-old Kit Smith, who was about a half-mile from the finish line.

“I would have loved to have finished, thrilled to finish, but I didn’t. I was deprived of the opportunity. But that’s pretty small stuff compared to the loss of life,” Smith said.

It is a tradition in Boston for Hawaii runners and their families to meet in a common area near the finish line. The gathering place made it easier to find loved ones.

“All the Hawaii runners meet at that H-1 instead under the alphabets for their last name just kind like our tradition,” Hawaii runner Jocelyn Kasamoto said. “We saw some people that looked kind of distraught.”

“Everybody was checking on everybody at the finish line at this family area H-1 that represents Hawaii and hence all of us were there and everybody was asking if everybody was okay,” Kwong said.

Kwong and others were impressed with the reaction from first responders.

“They were very good. It was very organized making sure the ambulance get there pretty quickly and there were medical tents right there, too,” Kwong said.

“We’re stunned, I mean this is supposed to be a fun occasion for us and then it’s kind of sobering,” Mike Kasamoto said.

“Horrible, troubling, discouraging, about human kind that they could do such catastrophic to fellow human beings. Just saddening… oh gosh. So my little inconvenience and frustration of not being able to finish, but I was a half-mile from the finish is nothing compared to the big picture,” Smith said.

“Not in a million years would I imagine this would happen,” Kwong said.

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