He had finished his first Boston Marathon and was sitting at a local eatery, enjoying the festivities that came with Patriot’s Day 2013.
For Steve Patchett, it was the best of times.
And then, the worst of times.
Having completed the race in 3:19.24, Patchett, a New Jersey native who grew up in Westfield and resides in Somerset County today with wife Kim and children Ian (7) and Clare (5), was reveling in the moment.
“My time was good enough, in my age bracket, to qualify for next year’s Boston Marathon,” Patchett recalled today. “We’re sitting in the restaurant, having lunch, and then everything suddenly changed.”
Patchett, the Media Relations Director at the Morristown Beard School, had never been around an event like the Boston Marathon before. He took up running about a decade ago, then poured himself into the sport five years ago. This was his third marathon and first at Boston.
“I can’t begin to tell you how positive the entire experience was in Boston,” Patchett said. “The people along the course were phenomenal. The little kids high-fiving the runners on the course, the people in general, it was incredible. I had never seen anything like this before. The Boston Marathon is a Super Bowl-like event. There were police everywhere, the Marines were walking the route, the National Guard, paramedics and doctors. It’s such a well-planned event and the most positive sporting event I had ever attended. And here I was, running it.”
Patchett began the race at approximately 10 a.m. and crossed the finish line at about 1:20 p.m. The plan was to meet his wife and children afterward, then head over for lunch.
“We went from plan A to plan B to plan C to D,” he said, laughing. “The parking was tough, so we had to make adjustments, but bottom line was, we were all together and enjoying the post-race atmosphere.”
While at lunch, the festive mood couldn’t have been higher.
“People were just having fun,” Patchett said. “There were multiple televisions going, and it was perfect.”
Then suddenly, a waitress mentioned an explosion at the finish line.
“You couldn’t believe how everything changed,” Patchett said. “It got so quiet. I don’t think any of us realized at that moment the severity of what had happened. Was it terrorism? We didn’t know.”
The Patchetts had originally planned to go back to their suburban hotel after lunch and there was a train nearby that would get them back to their car. He was also being inundated by well-wishers through social media and text messages.
“It’s crazy how things happen,” Patchett said. “Fortunately, the red line was running while a lot of other lines were shut down. We got back okay, but obviously, everyone’s thoughts were with the victims and all those first responders who were incredible. And there were so many friends who were concerned for us. It meant a lot.”
Having remembered where he was and what he was doing back on Sept. 11, 2001, did he have the same feeling on April 15, 2013?
“Not really,” said Steve, who is admittedly a little numb now, even though he’s back at work. “Different feeling, but same reaction in that someone attacked our country and why would people do this? I have a wife and two small children. You can’t help but wonder ‘what if’?”
Patchett had a simple message when asked if he would run in the 2014 Boston Marathon.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I can’t wait.”
God Bless America.