‘A day I’ll never forget’

Christopher Cameron
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MacIntosh returning to Boston Marathon after witnessing bombings a year ago

HOPEWELL – After seeing first hand how traumatic the Boston Marathon bombings were, Vernon MacIntosh knew soon after that he would be going back this year.

Vernon MacIntosh

The Hopewell native, who will be attending his fourth Boston Marathon, was roughly 50 feet away from the second bomb that exploded last year. It was the second of two bombs that exploded near the finish line, killing three people and injuring over 250 others.

“The first one (bomb) that exploded was the furthest from me and then the second one was only about 50 feet from me, so I saw it all,” said 68-year-old MacIntosh. “There was a lot of trauma and it was quite devastating. It bothered me so much that I knew right after that I was coming back this year to run in memory of those people that went through all that trauma.”

After completing his run, about 30 minutes before the bombs went off, he started looking for his girlfriend. He had picked up his medal and made sure he was hydrated before looking for her in the crowds around the finish line.

He was unable to find her in their agreed-upon meeting place before the bombs went off and afterwards his search became even more difficult.

“I had ducked into a little doorway of a building when the second one blew,” he said. “I thought it was propane because they had heaters to warm people up, but then I saw blood and shrapnel on people and first responders carrying people to ambulances.

“What really amazed me about it was how quick the responders were there because I couldn’t even get back up to look for my girlfriend and they were already there.”

Eventually he did find her, but that didn’t come without a long day of learning how kind the people of Boston are. With cell service down, as the police thought that’s how the bombs were being detonated, MacIntosh was roaming the streets looking.

Wearing nothing but his shorts and a light shirt, he was starting to get a little hypothermic as the day wore on and his search continued. He said a restaurant owner took him inside to warm him up by wrapping him in a tablecloth. He also had another group invite him into their hotel so he could get a warm shower and have something to eat.

“I really love Boston and the people of Boston,” he said. “It’s just like home to me. I had a police officer give me $20 so I could get a coffee, while I was roaming the town looking for her. I must’ve looked pretty bad, but I kept going. I also had a guy I didn’t know drive me outside of town to my car. It was all quite an ordeal, but I was one of the lucky ones that day and the people I met along the way were so kind. The people of Boston impressed me so much.”

Going into last year’s race he wasn’t planning on returning until his 70th birthday. He said with everything that happened last year he knew his plans had to change. It has made him work hard to get back, particularly running the hills in the Hopewell area over the last year to prepare for the hills in Boston.

This may be the healthiest he has been going to Boston. He said last year was his first year running with a pacemaker, which didn’t cause any issues, but he did have trouble with his hip. MacIntosh had also struggled with breathing problems in prior trips to the Boston Marathon.

“This is the first year I haven’t been injured since I came back running,” said MacIntosh as he knocked on wood. “I’ve had problems with my breathing and so on, but this year I have no physical problems at all.”

With that being said, he hopes to beat his time of 3:40 from last year. He said anything under that would make him happy.

“It will definitely be a different feeling running down there this year,” he said. “It was such a tragic run last year. It haunted me for awhile and it still does, so it will have a lot of meaning to me going down there and running it.

“I’ll be running it as a memorial run.”

Organizations: Boston Marathon

Geographic location: Boston, Hopewell

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  • Eurekan
    April 15, 2014 - 18:29

    Good man Vern. Always were always will be. We're proud of you. Such a big heart