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UPDATE 4:05 P.M.: Local runners safe after explosions rock Boston Marathon

Four women from the Alexandria area who qualified for the Boston Marathon included (left to right) Julie Miller, Jeanne Barlage, Shawn Severson and Sabrina Hoppe. Barlage is from Carlos and the others live in Alexandria. (Echo Press file photo by Eric Morken)

All four of the Alexandria area women who were competing at the Boston Marathon today are OK after two bombs reportedly exploded near the finish line of race.

Preliminary reports say that two people were killed and at least 100 injured by the blasts.

The explosions occurred in a sidewalk area at about 1:45 p.m.(Central Standard Time), about two hours after the first finishers crossed the line.

Last month, the Echo Press featured a story about four friends from Alexandria who qualified for the prestigious race: Jeanne Barlage, Sabrina Hoppe, Julie Miller and Shawn Severson.

In a phone interview with the Echo Press, Barlage said that she had just crossed the finish line, in just under four hours, when the first bomb went off.

"It was just unreal," she said. "I was looking for my husband, who was waiting across the street, when this [shock] wave blew by us. It was crazy."

Barlage said she was only a couple of blocks beyond the finish line, less than a couple of minutes after finishing, when the explosion occurred.

"I thought, 'What just happened?'" she said. "I thought at first that it might have been a sonic boom."

Barlage didn't see anyone injured. Race officials told everyone to keep moving and leave the area.

"We knew something bad had happened," she said. "There were people crying and this mass of runners everywhere. The weird thing is, I thought to myself earlier that morning that this would be a prime place for someone to do a bomb. There's just an incredible volume of people."

When Barlage finally saw her husband, Mark, at a prearranged meeting point, the reunion was an emotional one.

"He was in tears, I was crying," she said. "I started crying about the last mile, just knowing that I was going to complete the Boston Marathon."

Later, Barlage learned that all three of her friends, Hoppe, Miller and Severson, were all safe and back at their hotel. "Everyone is OK," she said.

Hoppe posted on her Facebook page that all the local runners and "their peeps" are fine.

The finish line was cut short at the 25th mile to prevent runners from entering the bomb site, which is now a crime scene.

"Things are chaotic," Hoppe wrote. "Luckily Shawn's hotel was a half-block from the 25-mile finish line and I am in her room."

Hoppe added that she plans to venture back to the race area when things calm down to retrieve her bag and finisher's medal.

"I know it's minor, but dammit I earned that finisher's medal!" she wrote. "Many miserable hours pushed on that I wouldn't have battled through for any place but Boston. Still, perhaps this stupid knee slowed me down to keep me safe, no? I'll take it, and the blisters, and the aches and pains, and be grateful. Feeling loved by the many, many notifications from all of you!"

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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