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Henning runner is witness to Boston terror

Local runner Ben Geyer poses near the starting point of the 2013 Boston Marathon. Geyer and his family were a block away from where two bombs were detonated last week near the finish line. The Geyers were physically unscathed and continued their vacation in Boston for another five days.

When Ben Geyer heard the first explosion after finishing the Boston Marathon, he didn’t want to believe it was a bomb. In fact, he willfully searched his brain to find some other explanation for the sound.

When the second blast came and Geyer started to see wounded and terrified people fleeing the scene, however, he had no other choice but to realize what was going on.

Geyer, a pharmacist from Henning, was walking back to his hotel with his family. Having just finished a race famous for its extreme difficulty, every ounce of Geyer’s strength was sapped. When the bombs went off about a block away – close enough to physically feel the sound – all the adrenaline he had spent in the race came back at once.

 “Suddenly…the limp in the step was gone, and we were walking with so much purpose to get where we were going,” Geyer remembered. “You just totally forgot that ‘I just ran a marathon’”. 

Geyer’s family was safe from the blast but his first concern was alerting his mother, who was back at the hotel, that they were okay. Other than looking out her window and seeing runners going the wrong way, she had no idea what was going on until the Geyers got around the blackout on cellphone calls by sending her text messages. When they returned to the hotel, they spent the rest of the day glued to the TV, trying to grasp the magnitude of the tragedy happening all around them.

“The sirens you hear on TV are literally right out your door; the helicopters putting the footage on TV are right over your head,” Geyer said.

The Geyers had planned to stay in Boston until Saturday. After the attack, they were determined to finish the itinerary they had planned. They visited places like Harvard University in Cambridge and the Freedom Trail around Boston. The change in atmosphere was obvious, however.   

“You saw people with big guns on all the corners, at every subway stop,” Geyer said.

Their plans were interrupted again when the city of Boston was placed on a de facto lockdown during the manhunt for the second bombing suspect. The Geyers had originally planned to move to a hotel closer to the airport in order to facilitate leaving for home the next day, but were stuck in place until a ban on taxi service was lifted. When they finally got a taxi, the ride through a deserted Boston made a distinct impression. They waited only momentarily at an on-ramp their driver said it normally took up to twenty minutes to get through. The freeways were barely used even though it was at midday during the work week.

“It was an absolute ghost town with the lockdown going on,” Geyer recalled.  

Geyer was moved by the compassion he saw from both the people in Boston and back home in Minnesota. He remembered how people from Connecticut in the hotel room next door to the Geyers who gave them food when all of the nearby restaurants were closed following the attack. Geyer said that the Monday he went back to work at the Henning pharmacy, there were more phone calls expressing support and sympathy than there were about prescriptions.

Geyer said the kindness is what he’ll choose to remember about his horrifying experience in the future.

“The lasting memory is going to be how nice everybody was,” he said.