ERHS teacher safe after Boston Marathon scare

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 07:58

Chugiak's Jacob Bera, 35, was far from the finish line of the Boston Marathon when a series of explosions rocked the annual footrace Monday, April 15.

"I was down [at the finish line] for like 20 minutes, got my bags, hit the subway and went back to my hotel and took a nap," said Bera, a teacher at Eagle River High School who ran his first Boston Marathon in 3 hours, 8 minutes, 10 seconds.

Bera said the explosions — which authorities say killed three people near the finish line and injured more than 100 — cast a pall over his race experience.

"The sad thing about it is it's such a positive event," he said.

Bera was one of three Chugiak-Eagle River runners to participate in the race. The other two — Eagle River's Katie Heath, 31, and Sarah Hurkett, 30 — also escaped the blasts uninjured.

Bera said the finish line area was packed with people when he crossed the line at around 1:10 p.m. Eastern Time.

"When I went across, you could barely walk there were so many people," he said.

The explosions occurred at approximately 2:45 p.m. Eastern. Bera said he heard about the blasts while resting in his hotel room. He said he immediately started calling family members, including his wife back in Eagle River.

"I just spent the last half hour getting in touch with people," said Bera, who teaches art and coaches cross country running at ERHS.

Bera said he plans to return to Alaska on Tuesday.

"It's very surreal right now," he said. "It's kind of hard to explain. This was a lifetime goal for me, and for something like this to happen it's just kinda sad."

Bera was one of 41 Alaskans  who entered this year's race.

Heath, the wife of an F-22 pilot based on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, told JBER public affairs that she was about two blocks from the finish line when the blasts occurred.

“This has been a very emotional day for me,” Heath said in a story posted to the base website. “Running a marathon is very taxing and then to have such a horrific event occur — I have been in shock most of the day. I have nothing but great things to say about the race coordinators and volunteers. Up until the explosion this was such an amazing experience. And even after everything happened everyone was so willing to help. We have been welcome in basically all over Boston."

Heath finished the race in 3:48:34, crossing the finish line about 20 minutes before the explosions.

Hurkett, a specialist in the Alaska National Guard, was reported safe by her family, according to Guard spokeswoman Kalei Rupp. Hurkett's time was not listed in official event statistics. According to the Associated Press, runners still on the course at the time of the explosions were routed away from the finish line area.


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