EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

April 19, 2013

Surprise Obama encounter boosts marathon runners

BOSTON (AP) — Brian Ladley was a half-block from crossing the Boston Marathon’s finish line when bombs detonated on either side of him.

Three days later, the 39-year-old runner, who was not injured in the blasts, got in line near the Cathedral of the Holy Cross by 7 a.m. Thursday, hoping to get a seat at an interfaith service to honor the victims.

Tickets ran out, but authorities saw his marathon jacket and plucked him and some other runners out of line to watch the service in a nearby school auditorium.

After it ended, Ladley found himself shaking hands with President Barack Obama.

“He was genuinely concerned for everyone and spoke to each person he met up close,” the Brewster resident said later. “I was too in awe to remember what he said to me.”

Ladley, who is in the hospitality industry, said Thursday’s experiences would help him heal from the trauma of the bombings.

“It was wonderful to have a moment with other runners and be able to share our stories,” he said.

Boston resident Deborah Spirio-Turi was another marathon runner who got up early to get in line, but didn’t get a ticket to the service Thursday.

The 55-year-old Neiman Marcus jewelry manager raised $16,000 in donations for the American Red Cross by running for the nonprofit’s team. But the explosions forced her to stop after she ran 25.5 miles, and she’s been overwhelmed by sadness since the attack.

Even if she didn’t get into the cathedral, Spirio-Turi didn’t want to be anywhere else Thursday. “It didn’t matter, I had to be there,” she said.

In the end, she also was among the group of runners who met the president.

“He held my hand and that is what I will remember, the comfort of that,” she said. “It was what the people in the room needed.”

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