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Five Northstate Residents' Accounts of Boston Marathon Explosions and Panic

By Chelsea Kay
Stephanie Vatz, Online Manager
Published On: Apr 15 2013 08:24:45 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 16 2013 07:06:40 PM CDT
BOSTON, Mass. -

The story that shook the country today – the series of explosions that injured more than 100 people at the Boston Marathon and killed three – touched the lives of many in the Northstate.

We interviewed four residents from Redding and Chico who were in Boston for the marathon and experienced what it was like to be on the scene when bombs began going off.

Amy Spencer's Story

"I've never seen anything like that before in my entire life," said Amy Spencer, who made the trip from Redding to Boston with her father and 71-year-old mother, Joann Hall, who was also running in the race.

Spencer said she was sitting in a bar right at the finish line when she heard the boom.

"All of a sudden there's a noise, like a boom... and the windows rattled and everybody stopped and looked around," Spencer said.

Immediately after, chaos ensued.

Spencer said that everyone in the bar got up and began running from the windows, throwing bar stools out of their way and screaming. Meanwhile, people outside of the bar were trying to come in to escape the smoke from the explosion.

Spencer said all she could think about was tracking down her mother, but all of the chaos and crowding was making that difficult.

Spencer even posted to Facebook, "JUST WATCHED TWO BOMBS GO OFF VERY CLOSE TO ME!! dads ok, I'm ok, I THINK moms ok....TOTAL PANDEMONIUM PLEASE PRAY FOR US!!!"

"Just running in every direction, crying," Spencer said, "A lot of people didn't know what had happened."

After walking for what Spencer said was miles, she finally spotted her mother, fell to her knees and cried.

Royal Courtain's Story

Royal Courtain was waiting for his wife, Cindy to cross the finish line.

From the sidelines he finally saw her cross and 45 seconds later, he said it happened.

The explosion left everyone, including Courtain in a panic and he started searching for Cindy.

"I ran toward the explosion because I knew my wife was at that area," Courtain said.

Thirty minutes later, he got some relief as Cindy texted him that she was alright.

"It's hard to explain," Courtain said of the experience, "It was just crazy."

Betty Thomas and Sue MacDonald's Stories

Redding residents Betty Thomas, 62, and Sue MacDonald, 61, traveled to Boston to run the marathon together. Both of them had only just finished when tragedy struck.

"After the race they hand out space blankets and water and I had just gotten to the water when I heard an explosion," MacDonald said. "I turned around and I saw this huge plume of smoke."

MacDonald said before she crossed the finish line, she had been waiting for Thomas, who she could not find.

"I was waiting and waiting and then I figured I had probably missed her because the time was 04:04:00 or something," MacDonald said.

MacDonald crossed the finish line and made her way to where water was being handed out and heard what she thought was a bomb, then saw smoke. She said she couldn't really see what else was going on because of the mass of people.

Betty Thomas, meanwhile, had also finished the race about four or five minutes before the explosion. She had been getting a space blanket when she heard the same loud boom.

Thomas and MacDonald said the scene was frightening, even after they left the marathon.

"It was hard to get back to the hotel," Thomas said, "You go through a mall to get to our hotel and stores are closed, people are evacuated. We were on an overpass and there's people shouting, 'Everybody get off the overpass!' It was pretty scary."

There were at least two-dozen runners from the Northstate in Boston for the marathon.

Tori Parks' Story

Tori Parks of Redding made the trip to Boston alone but met up with a few other Redding women who were also running the marathon.

She said she was so excited for the race and had been training hard over the last few months.

Parks said she was about half a mile from the finish line when all of a sudden police stopped her. She said no one really knew what was going on.

They were kept in a holding area for more than an hour before they were transported to buses that took them back to their belongings.

Parks said she still just cant believe what happened.

"It's the saddest thing I've ever been a part of," Parks said. "So full of emotions. A great experience cut short by tragedy."