Alex Cuozzo, president and coach of the Bellmore Striders running club, bounced between websites as the Boston Marathon progressed on Monday, checking on the club’s three members in the 26.2-mile race.
The websites gave runners’ five-kilometer splits. When Cuozzo found times for his runners — including Sal Nastasi of Massapequa, Crystal Perno of Albany, formerly of Point Lookout, and Jill Skelly of Baldwin — he texted the other 33 members of the Striders to alert them how their teammates were doing in what is unquestionably one of the world’s premier marathons.
All three Striders crossed the finish line in under 3 hours and 30 minutes. After Cuozzo posted his final text, he ran errands.
Shortly after the four-hour mark, terror reigned at the Boston Marathon when two crude bombs were detonated near the finish line, with thousands of spectators lining the race route and hundreds of runners on the street. Two fireballs blew out from surrounding buildings and spewed into the street, followed by a smoke plume that shrouded the finish line in white. Panic ensued.
Three people — including 8-year-old Martin Richard of Dorchester, Mass. — were killed, and at least 176 were injured. Many lost limbs.
Cuozzo spent the next two and a half hours furiously calling and texting his three teammates, trying desperately to reach them to make sure they were all right. Cell phone coverage, though, was spotty because so many calls were simultaneously placed to Boston, so reaching them was tough.
“I was getting bits and pieces from family members, and I finally heard from them that they’re OK, and I felt better about it,” Cuozzo said.
Such was Monday afternoon for many in Long Island’s running community as they waited for news of what homeland security experts are calling an act of terrorism. At press time on Tuesday, no individual or group had yet claimed responsibility for the attack, and investigators were saying that they did not yet have a suspect.
Some 30,000 runners from 90 countries took part in the Boston Marathon this year.
Long Island reacts
Sue Fitzpatrick, the development director for the Greater Long Island Running Club, said the club had between 30 and 40 members run the Boston Marathon. None were hurt.
“We are very happy that all of our runners are safe and sound and got home safely,” Fitzpatrick said. Still, she noted, the attack sent a chill through Long Island’s running community. “It’s scary,” she said.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said that security is being reviewed for the RXR Long Island Marathon, which is to take place on May 5. The race begins in Nassau’s Hub, in Uniondale, and winds through local streets, ending at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow.
“We are closely monitoring today’s tragic events at the Boston Marathon,” Mangano said. “The Nassau County Police Department is in constant contact with the FBI and New York City Police Department. Our patrol officers have been put on high alert. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of those affected by this horrific tragedy.”
Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, 46, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in Mineola, started running two years ago and ran the Long Island Marathon for the first time last May. “As a runner,” Reynolds said, “you understand the symbolism of the finish line and everything that means. You cannot begin to put into words what it means as you approach a finish. To have an explosion come out of nowhere is mind-blowing. There is no other word for it."
On Tuesday, Reynolds emailed Mangano, suggesting that Nassau forgo the fireworks that it normally ignites at the start of the Long Island Marathon. But, Reynolds said, the race should go on, and he plans to run in it once again.
Barry Wilansky, 66, is executive director of the nonprofit substance-abuse agency Tempo Group, with offices in Woodmere, North Merrick and Syosset. Wilansky, of North Bellmore, has taken part in marathons since the 1980s, when he started running to quit smoking. He ran the New York Marathon two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He last ran it in 2011 and has applied to run it again this year. Monday’s attack will not deter him from running New York again, he said.
“We have to confront life with a commitment to live our lives,” Wilansky said. “That’s been an American cultural response — that the terrorists don’t win. We learn that from the Israelis.”
Races carry on
On Tuesday, Kim Scharoff of Long Beach, who grew up in Merrick, took part in a “virtual run” on Facebook in solidarity with the victims of the Boston Marathon attack. Participants were asked to go for a run, snap a photo of themselves running and post the pictures on the “Runners United to Remember” page, which had more than 130,000 registered participants as of Tuesday morning.
Scharoff, 37, who is a member of a racing team that annually participates in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend to raise money for breast cancer research, decided that she had to run in a race this coming weekend. So, along with a racing teammate from Levittown, she is participating in the Jigsaw 4-Mile Run/Walk for Autism in East Islip.
“I decided I had to do something,” Scharoff said. “It was just absolute shock and concern because three of my teammates were running” the Boston Marathon. “We were waiting to hear from them. They were all fine, thankfully."
Jill Levine of Merrick, executive director of Forever 9: The Robbie Levine Foundation, said that the organization’s annual 5K Robbie’s Run, which begins and ends at Levy-Lakeside Elementary School in Merrick, will go on as scheduled on April 28.
“As always, we will work closely with the 7th Precinct to ensure the safety and health of our participants,” Levine said.
She added that she lived in Boston for three years while attending graduate school at Boston University. Each year she went to the Boston Marathon to watch the finish.
“I stood exactly where [the attack] happened three times,” Levine said. “We would always go towards the finish line. It's absolutely horrific.”
The Boston Marathon
•Always held on Patriots’ Day, which takes place in Massachusetts and Maine on the third Monday of April to commemorate the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.
•Year the marathon began: 1897. It was inspired by the first modern Olympics in 1896.
•Annual participants: 30,000
•Annual spectators: 500,000