For Mackenzie Petermeier, the events surrounding the Boston Marathon were incomprehensible chaos.
The Mingo native and Baxter alumni travelled to Boston to run the marathon alongside her cousin, Jamison Voss. Voss attends Iowa State University with Petermeier, has worked alongside her at an internship in Seattle and also has run with her before in the Seattle Rock-n-Roll Marathon.
Voss also is legally blind, having been diagnosed with congenital dominant optic nerve atrophy, which is severe damage to the optic nerve that can adversely affect central, peripheral and color vision.
When he’d qualified for the Boston Marathon, Petermeier was an easy choice as one of his guides. Petermeier was responsible for the middle stretch of the race, 12.6 miles, while Voss’ sister ran the first 6.5, and his mother aided him along the fateful final 7.5 miles of the race that would ultimately be cut short.
Petermeier met with her mother, Jill Petermeier, upon completing her leg of the race, and the two rushed along the Boston subway to meet up with everyone at the finish line.
“We got off at Arlington station, which was about three blocks away from the finish line,” Petermeier said. “We were going to meet up with his sister, Courtnie, and his dad at the family area, but everything was crazy in the subway.”
Petermeier described a crowd of people trying to get around, people flocking towards the exits hurriedly, all to the background of an announcer calling for evacuation over the intercom.
“We finally got outside, and it was like a zoo … Thousands of people were rushing around, and we had no idea what was going on at the time,” Petermeier said. “We were trying to get ahold of Charlie and Courtney, but we had no cell phone service and only 10 percent battery.”
It was around this time that the mother and daughter started to receive frantic text messages, not from their crew in Boston, but from friends and family back home in Iowa.
“People were calling and texting to make sure we were OK, and we still really had no clue what was happening,” Petermeier said. “We told people, you know more than we do.”
The pair was able to gather information by word of mouth, ascertaining that there had been two explosions near the finish. They rushed to meet the rest of the group.
Jamison and his mother, Joni Voss, had been told by emergency personnel and volunteers to stop and turn back. The pair was less than a third of a mile from the finish line, and it was two minutes past the explosion when they stopped running. They later recalled a water stop that they had taken a mile back that could have easily been the difference between being at the finish line or not at the time of the explosion.
The group reunited without incident, hovering around the area as it was evacuated, still largely confused by what was happening and not considering the possibility of further attack.
After passing through the heightened security of the airport, they returned to Iowa and couldn’t be more relieved.
With finals and graduation right around the corner, Petermeier and Voss both haven’t had much of an opportunity to process the weekend’s events, but as Petermeier said, “Right now, I’ve got a lot going on … but I think being that close to something like that will affect me for a while.”