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Area attorneys recount experience at Boston Marathon tragedy

Legal News Reporter

Published: April 24, 2013

Bret Treier was starting to relax in his hotel room when he heard the first explosion. “It sounded like a cannon went off,” he said. “I thought it was some kind of celebration at the finish line.”

And then the second explosion rattled the windows of his hotel, and he knew “there was something terribly wrong.”

Treier had just completed his 10th Boston Marathon. “We hadn’t even had time to shower,” he said. At age 53, the Vorys attorney is a fixture on the local running scene, particularly as the Akron Marathon’s course committee co-chair, a position that he holds along with Brouse McDowell attorney and fellow marathoner David Hunter.

Hunter, who has run that race 17 times but had to sit out this year’s for health reasons, was also at the event, working in the press room for the running blog www.runblogrun.com.

Michael Maillis, of the Youngstown office of Kisling, Nestico & Redick, had just gotten to Logan Airport when news of the explosions reached him. He had also just completed the Boston Marathon, finishing the race in the official time of 3:19.28.

Treier had completed the race in the official time of 3:29:53. “Yes, I was looking at the time, trying to finish under 3:30,” he said.

The explosions started at 4:09. That may not have been a random time. In studying how to put a marathon together for the Akron Marathon, Hunter said that research showed that the median marathon finish time, in which half of the racers had finished and half had not, was at about the 4:20 mark.

At the Boston Marathon, where the average runner may be faster than at other such races, Trier noted that about 16,000 runners had finished the course when the explosions occurred, leaving about 7,000 to- 8,000 stranded and still on the course.

When runners finish the Boston Marathon, they are not allowed to hang around at the finish line, said Maillis. “When you finish the marathon,” he said, “you go through a kind of a corral that takes about 20 minutes. They force you off the course—you can’t stay and see the other runners finish. They give you your stuff and force you onto the busses to the family area, which is about a half-mile away.”

Hunter was in the official press room, in a ballroom in a hotel a few blocks away––a room filled with 80 members of the international press with their laptops and cell phones, and huge television screens showing three separate feeds. He had arrived there at about 7:15 a.m. after having bid farewell to the Akron running contingent as they got ready to start the race. Hunter, Treier and several other Akronites had traveled together and stayed together at the Algonquin Club down the street.

“It was a beautiful day for the runners,” said Hunter. “Sunny and a little cool.”

By 2:50 p.m., the top runners had already finished several hours earlier, and Hunter had already submitted two articles to his blog—one on the women’s winner race, and one on the men’s.

Then, Hunter said, “a man came in and said, ‘There has been an incident at the finish line. We don’t have any details, but this place is under lockdown. Nobody can go out and nobody can come in.’”

At that point, the giant television screens started showing the chaos outside, and the press corps started scrambling to both write their stories and contact their families simultaneously, Hunter said.

Maillis had already made it to the airport when he found out about the explosions.

After he had gotten out of the post-race corral, Maillis said that he checked out of his hotel, grabbed a cab, and went to the airport. As he was checking in, he received a call asking if he was all right.

“I didn’t know until then,” he said. And then he looked around the airport.

“Everyone was in shock,” said Maillis.

Normally after the Marathon, he said, the runners are wandering around the airport and talking about their times with each other.

Maillis recounts the scene: Monday, nobody was talking about race times. Nobody was talking at all. The airport was virtually silent, as the marathon runners looked at each other and shook their heads and walked around silently talking to themselves.

When Maillis saw footage of the Boylston Street explosions, he immediately realized two things. The first was that he had been standing virtually on that very spot on Sunday, watching some preliminary races and taking some photos.

The second was that, “last year, that was where my family was sitting.”

Treier and the rest of the Akron contingent watched as the smoke from the second explosion rose up above the buildings.

“We were all in the same room. We hadn’t even been in there for five minutes. We were still in our running clothes. No one had showered, and no one had eaten.”

For a couple of minutes, the Akronites engaged in the traditional banter about running times.

And then, like at the airport, they didn’t. “It was a complete change in dynamic for the six of us,” Treier said.

The Algonquin was also put into lockdown, said Treier. “There was no texting and the cell phone service was intermittent, although I did get ahold of my wife. They shut down all texting services after an attack.”

They also didn’t have any food, he said, “other than race food.”

The press corps was under their lockdown until 7 p.m., said Hunter. “When I got out, the Back Bay looked like a military installation.”

Hunter took, he said, a circuitous route back to the Algonquin that went past a package store. When he arrived at the hotel with a case of beer, the rest of the Akron contingent was playing pool and eating beer nuts. They were very happy to see him.

And the three are very happy to be back in northeast Ohio.

“It makes you appreciate this place,” said Hunter.

“It was definitely a surreal and harrowing experience,” said Treier on Wednesday. He landed at noon on Tuesday and thought about going to the office, but then decided not to. “I’m glad to be back.”

Tuesday, Maillis was in his office. “I had to be in court,” he said. He was thinking about taking the rest of the day off.