Placerville audiologist L. Mark Payne and his wife Alison are looking forward to their return to the safety and “sleepiness” of Placerville. Alison Payne was running the Boston Marathon on April 15 and Mark was waiting for her at the finish line, camera in hand, when two explosions went off.
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“All the people were cheering the finishers and the finishers were waving to us in the crowd when the deafening explosions went off and turned the whole event into a nightmare,” wrote Mark Payne in an e-mail to his friend and tennis buddy, Bill Schultz.
Payne reported that Alison was about five minutes behind her usual marathon pace and about a half mile from the finish line. “I was expecting her to finish about 4:10 and was poised with my camera at the finish line when the first bomb went off.” The explosion occurred off to Payne’s left. “I was just trying to figure out what happened when the second blast went off to my right.”
Payne and Cathy Tedesco, a friend from Folsom, had been standing together at the finish and were considering a move toward where the second blast eventually went off, to get better photos. “Thank God we stayed put and thank God Alison was a little slower that day,” wrote Payne.
Alison Payne had just missed qualifying for Boston in 2010, but in 2011, she made it. “The temperature was cold, but we could tell it was going to be a perfect day,” wrote Alison. “This was the Boston Marathon — just a name sends a sense of accomplishment.”
Alison tried not to go out too fast, but her excitement carried her to mile 16 where she was able to give Mark and Cathy a hug. “The crowd was incredible. Their cheers, songs, high fives and comments just pushed me along.” She slowed a bit after that because she didn’t feel well.
The cheers increased as she got closer to the finish line. But at mile 25.57 the runners started to stop and back up. “Gradually the word spread through the crowd — bomb at finish! Then the panic,” said Alison. ” People were lending cell phones to each other; some were crying, no one knew what was going on and what we should do.” Sirens screamed as ambulances and police raced to the finish line. Alison borrowed a cell phone but was unable to reach Mark.
Mark Payne, worried that Alison might still be running toward the bombed finish line, ran back down a side street paralleling the course. He had some debris in one eye, a cut on his cheek and one ear was deafened by the blast.
“The runners were all being held about a quarter mile back and more and more of them were coming in. I started asking people what their finish time would have been to narrow down where she might be. I jumped up on a stanchion and saw her in the crowd and waved.”
Alison was considering jumping the fencing and running toward the finish line to find Mark when a woman tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to him waving. ” I ran over and hugged him tight and cried.”
After Mark filled her in on the horrific events, the Paynes walked a few miles to the houseboat they rented at the Boston Tea Party wharf, avoiding buses, landmarks and tall buildings along the way. Helicopters circled overhead, police cars, ambulances and fire trucks were everywhere. That night, the Coast Guard cruised near the wharf with all lights blazing.
Mark and Cathy had become separated in the crowd, but the Paynes received a text that she was safe and unhurt as they were walking. Texts and calls from family and friends who had heard about the blast began pouring in.
“It had been such a joyous occasion,” said Payne. “I spoke to supporters of loved ones from Australia, Europe and Canada and realized how this was the mecca of marathons for those who were fit enough to qualify and a dream for those of us not fast enough to qualify.”
The Paynes are coming home Saturday, but it’s been bittersweet to stay, said Mark. “Alison wears her marathon jacket and people come up and talk to her, but they are melancholy and it’s like no one thinks they should offer congratulations. Five blocks of the city is still blocked off and the police and National Guard are everywhere. A shopkeeper in the North End told us that usually there are parades and parties afterwards. The people here have been great and very kind, but there’s a real damper on everything.”
On Wednesday, the couple visited the memorial on Boylston Street for those killed and injured in the blast. They went to a museum where the explosions from the video reenactment of the Battle of Bunker Hill freaked Alison out. They tried to take their minds off the tragedy by walking Boston’s Freedom Trail, visiting the graves of patriots like Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and John Hancock.
“How ironic that we are reliving the lives of those who fought and died for our country’s freedom while evil people/terrorists are trying to take that freedom away,” wrote Payne.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.