Kiwi in Boston feeling the 'aroha'
Wednesday 17 Apr 2013 10:07 a.m.
A day after two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, Kiwi runner Laila Harre says she has been "impressed" with the swift return to normality in the city.
Three people were killed and more than 170 injured when the crude explosives, thought to have been constructed of pressure cookers loaded with ball bearings and nails, ripped through crowds gathered near the finish line. A third bomb was found and deactivated before it could explode.
Speaking on Firstline this morning, Ms Harre – a former MP – said several blocks surrounding the crime scene have been closed off, but otherwise Bostonians are going about their usual routines.
"People today have been going about life in what looks like a fairly normal way," says Ms Harre.
"A lot of people have come up to me because I am wearing a marathon jacket like thousands of other people around the city, asking how I'm feeling, asking did I manage to finish the race. There's a lot of public warmth and aroha, it's quite an extraordinary sort of feeling."
- VIDEO: Laila Harre on Firstline
At the time of the explosions, Ms Harre was only a few hundred metres away.
"We had finished the run, so we weren't in the immediate area of the explosions, and people reacted really calmly. I didn't quite know what to do – I did manage to pick up my bag, unlike several thousand people who are returning today to do that.
"I managed to find somebody who was heading in the same direction as me, because public transport was closed down, so I had to walk several kilometres to get back to where I was staying."
Some of her friends taking part in the race had passed the 40km mark of the 42.2km course, but were unable to finish because of the attacks.
"I managed to get hold of the women who were running from my club, which was a big relief at the end of the day. Looking online, they had crossed the 40km mark, but hadn't registered as completing the race. Unfortunately they were unable to finish, but they were safe.
"There was something like 9000 runners who were unable to finish the race."
The tragedy hasn't put her off running another marathon, and she hopes it won't see an end to the Boston Marathon, which has run every year since 1897.
"The Boston Marathon was an absolutely extraordinary event, and I mean, for the people of this city I hope that the circumstances yesterday don't dampen their enthusiasm for something that they do in the most extraordinary way," says Ms Harre.
"Every foot of the race was lined with people on both sides of the road, cheering on the runners. The sort of awfulness of the attack is that it seems to have been aimed at the ordinary people of Boston who form the most incredible crowd of supporters and spectators that any amateur like me could hope to have.
"They make us all feel like champions, and I think they are acting like champions today."
President Barack Obama today described the incident as an act of terrorism, and the FBI is investigating. Ms Harre says she has been impressed how locals and the media haven't leapt to conclusions over who might be responsible.
"I think people are just waiting for official information, and those who are investigating to talk. I'm quite impressed by how calm people are, and there isn't a sense of leaping to conclusions. The local media that I've been watching seem to be genuinely sort of curious about what's occurred.
"I certainly haven't heard any conversations around me that people are leaping in to speculation, so I guess it's a wait-and-see situation."