Crawford County judge shares chilling experience at Boston Marathon

Submitted Tue, 04/16/2013 - 12:09am by Andy Alm

MEADVILLE – Judge John Spataro, of the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas, ran in Monday’s Boston Marathon, where a pair of explosions ripped through crowds, killing three and injuring over 100.  Spataro spoke with Forever Broadcasting News Director Andy Alm from the Boston apartment of his daughter’s boyfriend Monday night.  What follows is a transcript and audio recording of the 8-minute interview.

 

AA: Tell me how this happened, and where you were when this tragedy occurred.

JS: Well, I think first and foremost, we need to stop and take a moment of reflection and prayer for the victims – those that died, those who were injured, some of them very seriously.  Apparently, some runners were mid-run when their legs were amputated.  That’s what I heard on the news, and there was quite a number of people injured.  It’s a terrible, terrible tragedy.

As far as my situation, it really gives me chills to think about it, because I thought I was about 15 minutes away from the point at which this explosion occurred.  It turns out, I was about 11 minutes away.  I finished the race at 3:58, and the explosion was at 4:09, by the clock, the timing clock.  What happened was, it was the typical finish of any Boston Marathon; this was my third one, and you end and everybody’s jubilant, and exhausted, and so happy, and their family members are there, and there’s just all this joy, and you walk through a series of stations where they give you water, and food, and these other things, and then I was, I am estimating, about 150 to 200 yards away, when we heard these explosions, and it did shake the ground a little from our vantage point, and one of the runners next to me made the comment, “I think that’s a bomb.”  And, of course, we didn’t know for sure.  At the time, we were so distant from the scene of the explosion.  And then, subsequently, I did begin to think, this is very serious.  And I was able to communicate with my family, and I came to learn after the fact that they were at the very spot where this one bomb actually exploded.  And again, had I finished the race 15 minutes slower, or 11 minutes slower, it would have been very tragic for my family, and it just gives me chills to think about that.

But fortunately, we were reunited, and my one daughter has a boyfriend who lives in town, and that’s where we’re at right now because the city is sort of in a lockdown. 

AA: So you’re still in Boston then?

JS: Yes, we’re still in Boston. 

AA: What is sort of the atmosphere like up there right now?

JS: Well, right now, I don’t know.  I’ve been in this apartment for a while.  I can tell you that immediately afterwards, it was something I’ve never experienced.  Word would ripple about.  People would say things as we’re walking through Boston, coming to the apartment.  You’d see people walking along, and they’re crying, and there was just this cacophony of sirens.  One ambulance after another were traveling through the streets.  The police and emergency personnel seemed very, very intense.  And so the police were directing traffic aggressively, doing a very fine job of giving the ambulances a clear path to help the victims. 

And at the time, I had no clue as to how many people were injured, and I was astonished at how many ambulances we had.  It was a mile and a half walk for us to get to this apartment, and quite a number of ambulances, all endeavoring to reach the scene of this awful tragedy. 

The roads were filled with people; everyone had a look in their eyes of what’s going on? What’s this all about?  Having to get places… it was a very heightened experience for everyone.

AA: Wow, yeah.  Now, you are obviously closer to these events than we are.  We’re hearing that maybe, what, two or three people died and some 80 are injured.  Is that what you heard?

JS: The last I saw on CNN, they had 138 persons injured and it says here at least three dead.  And one of them, it breaks my heart.  To think of an eight-year-old – an eight-year-old child was killed.  And it’s so sad because, again, as you approach the finish line, and there’s all these folks at that location, and they’re just so happy and so jubilant to see the faces of their family members who are finishing this very challenging race.  To think that their joy would be so tragically and horribly altered in such an awful and terrible way is really just a sad thought. 

And children – I mean come on – it just angers you to think that anyone would be that evil to do a thing like that.

AA: Absolutely.  What was the emergency response like over there?  The police and the first responders in Boston, what was your impression of them?

JS: It was instantaneous, and as far as I could tell, it was very thorough, and a little bit aggressive.  I’ll tell you what, those police officers directing traffic, they were not shy about telling people where to go and when to stop, and they were very intensely focused on endeavoring to make a clear path for emergency personnel to reach those who were injured.

AA: Well obviously, you are a judge.  As a judge, and also as a human being who was there, what do you think is the best situation that we can hope for if and when someone is found and brought to trial for these horrific crimes?

JS: Well, I did happen to hear the president’s speech on this, and his remarks, which incidentally, I thought were exactly on point.  They will be brought to justice.  I don’t know who they are.  They evidently have a terrible agenda – an agenda completely contrary to all America stands for.  And I fully expect that when they are found, and they will be found, that proper justice will be meted out. 

AA: All right.  Well, judge, I appreciate you taking the time here and talking with us.  I wish you and your family continued safety and health, and a safe return home. I appreciate it. 

JS: All right, well thank you very much.

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