Local father watches Boston tragedy unfold, Johnson City cardiologist experiences event firsthand
Apr 16, 2013 at 9:59 PM
When Richard Wesley Pectol Sr. watched the footage of the bombings at the Boston Marathon Monday, there were a few context clues that relaxed and reassured him that his son, one of the local runners in the race, was OK.
As the videos of the blasts were being broadcast, Pectol said the timer shown at the finish line, reading somewhere around 4:10, was one indication his son, Richard Wesley “Wes” Pectol Jr., known to be a fast finisher at marathons, was nowhere near the danger zone.
“He’s an orthopedic surgeon in Greeneville and he’s very dedicated to his running. He finished about 45 minutes before the explosion,” he said. “This is his ninth Boston Marathon. That’s his thing. He’s in excellent shape and is crazy enough to do this stuff.”
Pectol said Wes, his daughter-in-law Cynthia and his granddaughter Ellie were already back in their room at the Marriott Hotel at Copley Square, located close by the finish line, when the explosions went off just before 3 p.m.
“He (Wes) was in the shower and heard and felt the explosion and his wife and daughter (looked) out the window,” he said. “Smoke was coming up and all of a sudden sirens, smoke, smell ... it’s pandemonium down there. He said it was something that ... you couldn’t imagine.”
Pectol, unaware of the events unfolding in Boston that afternoon was quickly notified by his other son, who said that his brother and his family were OK.
“All you could think was ‘My God ... that could have been him,’ ” he said as he watched the footage from the race on TV. “You see all of those people and you think ‘My God, that could be my granddaughter and that could be my son and my daughter-in-law in there.’ You can’t look at it and not have a chill.”
He said he immediately tried calling his loved ones’ cell phones, but was unsuccessful at reaching any of them.
“I tried to call. I kept getting ‘Your call cannot be completed at this time.’ I called his (Wes’) phone, I called his wife’s phone, I called my granddaughter’s phone and I got the same thing.”
When Wes did make contact with his father, he was calling to tell him that he, his wife and daughter were all going to stay the night with his wife’s uncle who lives near Harvard.
Pectol said his last correspondence with his son was Tuesday, as Wes, Cynthia and Ellie were stranded at LaGuardia Airport in New York City trying to get back home to Tennessee.
“My wife said ‘Do you think he’ll run again?’ I said ‘Well, yeah. I know he will,’ ” Pectol said. “You can’t stop living. Things are going to happen.”
Dr. Fawwaz Hamati, a Johnson City cardiologist, was running in his fourth Boston Marathon and his seventh marathon overall. When the explosions occurred, he was two miles from the finish line, so he did not realize at first that the race had been marred by terrorism.
As he approached mile 25, the road was filled with people who were not running, and other runners were slowing down, which left him confused.
“We didn’t understand what was happening,” he said in a telephone interview from the Atlanta airport Tuesday between flights back to Johnson City. “There is always in your mind the need to finish.”
Though he heard scattered and conflicting reports about the race’s status, he decided to keep going before authorities stopped the runners about a half mile from the finish line.
Informed of the carnage ahead, he told authorities he was a physician and volunteered to lend his services to the victims. He was told, however, that plenty of emergency assistance was on the scene and he needed to stay where he was with other runners.
Checking his cell phone, he found 39 text messages from friends and family concerned about his wellbeing. He eventually made contact with family members who told him to post to Facebook to let everyone know he was OK.
“You’re like in a state of shock in a way,” Hamati said. “You’re like in a daze.
“I’m so lucky in a way that I did not get close to the finish line.”
His thoughts were on the victims who were injured and killed by the blasts, including young boy Martin Richard, who was at the finish line watching the race with his family as his father ran in the marathon.
“An 8-year-old kid is innocent,” Hamati said. “The boy was waiting for his dad.”
Asked about the impact of the attacks, Hamati’s position about terrorism was clear.
“I don’t think it’s time for forgiveness,” he said. “I think … it’s an eye for an eye.”
He was also resolved to stay the course as a runner and in life.
“I’m not going to quit … We just keep on going,” Hamati said.
News Editor Sam Watson contributed to this article.