Merrick marathoner turns tragedy into triumph

Her race cut short by Boston bombing, Kara Iskenderian completes the NYC Marathon


At 2:49 p.m. on April 15, two pressure-cooker bombs loaded with ball bearings and nails detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, on Boylston Street, shrouding two blocks of multistory brick buildings in white smoke and sending shrapnel hurtling in all directions. Three people were killed and 264 injured in the terrorist attack.

Merokean Kara Iskenderian, 20, who is now a junior at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., and a member of the school’s marathon team, was a third of a mile –– or less than three minutes –– away from finishing the race when the crudely constructed, homemade bombs exploded.

“No one really knew what was going on,” Iskenderian recalled. “I heard the noise and ambulances. There was a very specific smell in the air. It smelled weird. There were rumors going on. No one could figure it out.”

Authorities told the hundreds of runners who were streaming toward the finish to turn around and run in the opposite direction. Kara did just that, racing through the streets until she was too tired to go on, then darting into a hotel to seek refuge.

Her gut told her to expect the worst –– that the horror she witnessed unfolding around her could be a terrorist act. She understands terrorism’s tragic consequences all too well. Her father, Aram, who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center and had lived through the 1993 bombing at the Twin Towers, died in the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks, when Kara was 8 years old and a student at Levy-Lakeside Elementary School in Merrick. Aram was a long-distance cyclist.

After the Boston Marathon bombing, Kara was determined to run another marathon, and so she did, completing the New York City Marathon on Nov. 3 in 4 hours, 14 minutes. “The common-sense thing for me to do was to run another big-city marathon,” she said. “I said, I’m going to run another one. Try to stop me.”

Terror revisited

For Kara’s mother, Sheri, the Boston Marathon bombing — allegedly perpetrated by Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (see sidebar) — brought the horror of the 9/11 attacks crashing back. Sheri was on Boylston, awaiting her daughter’s arrival at the finish line, when the bombs detonated.

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