Tuesday, April 23, 2013 • Lassen High graduates participate in Boston Marathon marred by bombings

Last weekend several graduates from the 1988 class of Lassen High School and their spouses met in Boston for a reunion of sorts. Some were running in the Boston Marathon. Others were there as spectators to cheer them on.

Kirsten Sherve, whose parents, Karen and Bob Sherve, still live in Susanville, qualified for the Boston Marathon from running in the Bizz Johnson Marathon in 2011. She wasn’t able to go in 2012, so put it off until this year. Her twin brother, Karl, and his wife, had come to watch, as well as Kirstin’s husband and friends, Christina Hawks and Russell Smith. She had already crossed the finish line when the first bomb exploded.

She said, “At first we thought it might be a cannon. I’ve never heard anything that loud. I’ve never heard anything like it. We turned around and we could see everyone running toward the finish. Then we heard the second one, and we all started moving. We knew we had to get away from that area.”

Kirsten now lives in Nevada where she works for the Division of Emergency Management — Homeland Security.

Her mother, Karen, said the phone was ringing all day Monday.

“After I heard there had been bombings, I just thought, no. What happened?” she said. “Then Karl left a message. He said, ‘First of all, we’re all OK, and Kirsten ran an awesome race.’”

Another Lassen graduate, Smith (Rawson while he was in school) had not yet reached the finish line when the explosions came. Via Facebook, Smith was able to share his experience with the Times.

He wrote, “. . . I never made it to the finish line.. I was just past 23 miles when they went off, but ran another two miles because no one knew what was happening and the few police/security that tried to hold us up didn’t try hard because they didn’t know what was happening either. It wasn’t until we got to Fenway (Park) and close to the site that we saw something big had happened, and even then no one would say what.”

Smith now lives in Washington, D.C. where he is Command Master Chief in the U.S. Navy. He spent much of his time after the bombings accounting for his sailors and friends who were running the race.

“Lots of runners were stranded with no guidance, no direction, no assistance,” he wrote. “I eventually walked 3 more miles back to my hotel in Charlestown and managed to get cell contact with my wife and got her back to Charlestown as well. I spent the rest of the evening accounting for my sailors and other military and friends running the race, all of whom were OK.”

Hawks, another 1988 Lassen High graduate, also has family locally. She now lives in New York City and works as a histotechnologist at Montefiore Medical Center. She had missed all previous Lassen High School class of ’88 reunions because of moving so often. She learned through Facebook two of her classmates, Sherve and Smith, would be running in the Boston Marathon and was determined to go. Hawks is also a runner, but didn’t compete.

In a Facebook email she wrote, “I knew I would go to cheer them on. Add the bonus of Kirsten’s twin, Karl, and their families. Our fathers worked together, so our family has known the Sherves since elementary school. I also compete with Russell Smith via a running website, Nike+, so I was thrilled he was invited to run the penultimate marathon.”

Hawks was with Kirsten, Karl and their families after Kirsten crossed the finish line.

She wrote, “I was with the Sherve twins one block north on St. James Street. We left the finish line 20 minutes before the explosion. One block away it was really very loud. There was no mistaking what it was. The police and some EMTs immediately started moving south toward the sound, and everyone around had fallen silent. We’re talking about thousands of people going quiet all at once. Maybe 20-25 seconds, it seemed there was a second blast and the police who were moving south broke into a run. Karl said we should move away from there. Kirsten was holding her son and gave quick hugs and headed north. Away. Everyone was calm where we were but there was a sense that we needed to get out of the immediate area. Social media helped everyone get out updates on all our safety and find Russell Smith and his wife, Amy, later on. Without being able to call out, texting and social media apps helped us get the word out that we were safe.”

Karen Sherve said, “The whole family was standing in the area where the bomb first exploded. When she (Kirstin) finished they went down to meet her, but then went further beyond. As her older sister said, ‘thank goodness Kirsten’s a fast runner.’”

She was right. Kirstin said she had no plan when she entered the race, and toward the end, she thought she might slow down and just let herself enjoy things, but she couldn’t. It may have saved her life.

Kirstin said, “The response was just unbelievable. The sirens were instantaneous. I’ve never seen such an amazing response. They closed off the subways, so we walked an hour to an hour and a half back to our hotel. Everyone was just trying to figure out what to do, but there was no sense of chaos.”

The citizens of Boston were incredible, Kirstin said. When they learned someone had been in the race, they would do anything for them.

After the bombing many runners were not able to leave their hotels, while others were unable to get back to them, so local people put up the runners.

While most friends and family of Boston Marathon runners are no doubt relieved their loved ones are OK, it’s bittersweet in the reminder of those who were killed.

“It takes away from what should have been a wonderful day for most people,” Karen said. “All of us feel really badly about those losses and injuries.”

Tragedy can also help those who are close remember their own good fortune and reflect on how easily it could have been them in the vicinity when the bomb exploded.

Smith wrote, “To be honest it was a bad day for those families, especially that 8-year-old and his family.  I feel very fortunate to have had more than my share of luck throughout a long career. I was especially grateful that it wasn’t my own tragedy I had to figure out how to deal with — going forward on combat deployments is a very different kind of risk, because its you who may not come home. When I found out that it was an IED and my wife was in danger, I realized that wasn’t a kind of tragedy I was prepared to deal with, and don’t know how I would’ve metabolized the guilt of her being there because of me.”

Regarding the group from Lassen High, Kirstin said, “We all feel very fortunate and blessed that there were so many of us and we were all OK.”