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Reeling locals take stock  of bombings

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  • Tim Baldwin of Northampton offers his reaction Tuesday to the explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Tim Baldwin of Northampton offers his reaction Tuesday to the explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon Monday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kim Stillwell of Northampton and Simon Feldman of Mystic, Connecticut, offer their reactions Tuesday to the explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Kim Stillwell of Northampton and Simon Feldman of Mystic, Connecticut, offer their reactions Tuesday to the explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon Monday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Joe Coleman of Easthampton offers his reaction Tuesday to the explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Joe Coleman of Easthampton offers his reaction Tuesday to the explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon Monday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tim Baldwin of Northampton offers his reaction Tuesday to the explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Tim Baldwin of Northampton offers his reaction Tuesday to the explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon Monday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • <br/>Mary Boilard, of Ludlow, talks about her feelings around the Marathon bombings on  Main street Northampton Tuesday afternoon.<br/><br/><br/>


    Mary Boilard, of Ludlow, talks about her feelings around the Marathon bombings on Main street Northampton Tuesday afternoon.


    Purchase photo reprints »

  • <br/>Todd Ford of Florence, talks about his feelings around the Marathon bombings on  Main street Northampton Tuesday afternoon.<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>


    Todd Ford of Florence, talks about his feelings around the Marathon bombings on Main street Northampton Tuesday afternoon.




    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tom Gainey of Cape Cod, talks about his feelings around the Marathon bombings on  Main street Northampton Tuesday afternoon.<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Tom Gainey of Cape Cod, talks about his feelings around the Marathon bombings on Main street Northampton Tuesday afternoon.




    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Laverne Mickens with her children, left, Elizabeth,8, Taylor,14, and Kiara,14, Mickens,   talks about her feelings around the Marathon bombings on  Main street Northampton Tuesday afternoon.<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Laverne Mickens with her children, left, Elizabeth,8, Taylor,14, and Kiara,14, Mickens, talks about her feelings around the Marathon bombings on Main street Northampton Tuesday afternoon.





    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bill Durkee, the running buyer at Western Village on Main street Northampton, talks about his feelings around the Marathon bombings.

    Bill Durkee, the running buyer at Western Village on Main street Northampton, talks about his feelings around the Marathon bombings. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dr. Pierre Rouzier of Amherst talks about his experience treating victims of the explosions at the Boston Marathon on Monday.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Dr. Pierre Rouzier of Amherst talks about his experience treating victims of the explosions at the Boston Marathon on Monday.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dr. Pierre Rouzier talks about his experience treating victims of the explosions at the Boston Marathon on Monday.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Dr. Pierre Rouzier talks about his experience treating victims of the explosions at the Boston Marathon on Monday.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dr. Pierre Rouzier talks about his experience treating victims of the explosions at the Boston Marathon on Monday.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Dr. Pierre Rouzier talks about his experience treating victims of the explosions at the Boston Marathon on Monday.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tim Baldwin of Northampton offers his reaction Tuesday to the explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Kim Stillwell of Northampton and Simon Feldman of Mystic, Connecticut, offer their reactions Tuesday to the explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Joe Coleman of Easthampton offers his reaction Tuesday to the explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Tim Baldwin of Northampton offers his reaction Tuesday to the explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • <br/>Mary Boilard, of Ludlow, talks about her feelings around the Marathon bombings on  Main street Northampton Tuesday afternoon.<br/><br/><br/>
  • <br/>Todd Ford of Florence, talks about his feelings around the Marathon bombings on  Main street Northampton Tuesday afternoon.<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Tom Gainey of Cape Cod, talks about his feelings around the Marathon bombings on  Main street Northampton Tuesday afternoon.<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Laverne Mickens with her children, left, Elizabeth,8, Taylor,14, and Kiara,14, Mickens,   talks about her feelings around the Marathon bombings on  Main street Northampton Tuesday afternoon.<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Bill Durkee, the running buyer at Western Village on Main street Northampton, talks about his feelings around the Marathon bombings.
  • Dr. Pierre Rouzier of Amherst talks about his experience treating victims of the explosions at the Boston Marathon on Monday.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Dr. Pierre Rouzier talks about his experience treating victims of the explosions at the Boston Marathon on Monday.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Dr. Pierre Rouzier talks about his experience treating victims of the explosions at the Boston Marathon on Monday.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

At Western Village Ski & Sports in Northampton Tuesday, a radio played a station where all talk focused on the Boston Marathon bombings, and a newspaper filled with graphic images of the mayhem at the finish line lay on the counter.

“I’m sick about it,” said employee Bill Durkee, who buys running supplies for the shop. “I’m angry that this happened at such a peaceful event, one that’s the pinnacle of our sport. And it’s a family event. Everyone’s happy, everyone’s smiling. That’s what I love about the sport of running — so many positive people.”

Durkee’s connection to the marathon is personal — he’s run it six times, most recently in 2010.

But, as interviews with area residents showed Tuesday, even those without personal connections to the marathon felt the bombings in a visceral way. Many found it impossible to make sense of the news.

“I was surprised that this could happen so close to home,” said Laverne Mickens of Springfield, 40, on a trip to Northampton with her family. “It’s very sad.”

In dozens of interviews in Northampton, Easthampton and Amherst, people said they couldn’t understand why anyone would want to hurt people at such a joyous event.

Todd Ford, 41, of Florence, a former runner who lived in Boston for 10 years, said the marathon, with its festive atmosphere and thousands of cheering runners on “was penetrated by evil.”

At the Pioneer Valley Running Authority on King Street, another store that caters to runners, employee Nancy Conz said “it was hard to even fathom” what happened in Boston. “It still doesn’t seem real to me.”

Shannon Greenwood, co-owner of Tandem Bagel Co. in Easthampton, said she felt haunted by the familiarity of the spot where more than 100 people were injured. She knew the area well because two years ago, she and her 16-year-old daughter stood at the very place the bombs went off.

“It’s where everyone wants to be,” Greenwood said. “It’s surreal.”

That wasn’t her first thought after hearing the news, though — she was concerned about the safety of customers who had picked up a dozen bagels to share with other volunteers at the race.

“It kind of hit me personally,” she said. “I was thinking of them, hoping they were OK.”

Citing the shootings in Newtown, Conn., and the enduring memories of 9/11, others said the bombings were yet another sign of today’s world.

At the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus, Gilbert McCauley, a member of the theater department, said he felt the deeply solemn atmosphere at UMass.

“Just walking around campus today, I notice how somber, how quiet it is. It’s overall really kind of sad,” he said.

And many expressed heartbreak that a city they know so well had been targeted.

“It was just shocking, just overwhelming” said Max Douggan, 21, a history major originally from Boston. “It’s weird to see something like that somewhere that you’re so familiar with. My brother works a few blocks away from there in a bar, and they wouldn’t let anyone out,” he said.

“It hits really close to home, with a lot of my friends living in Boston and running in the race,” said Greg Berube, a 22-year-old UMass accounting student. “If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.”

Worried about loved ones

In Easthampton, Simon Feldman, having a bite to eat at Tandem Bagel Co. with Kim Stillwell of Northampton, said he texted his brother who lives in Boston immediately after he heard about the bombings. He knew his brother had been thinking about bringing his two young children to see the marathon. “He didn’t go see it, fortunately for them,” Feldman said.

Stillwill added: “Who does this? Why at such a big event? There are lots of questions about motivation.”

Feldman said nearly 24 hours after the story broke, he was feeling the need to take a break from the constant stream of news and analysis of the explosion.

“I’m trying to distance myself a little from yesterday,” he said. “It’s clear we don’t know everything that happened yet so I felt there was nothing to gain by immersing myself too much in the tragedy.”

Stillwell, on the other hand, awoke Tuesday morning and looked at the news right away.

“I checked the news this morning,” she said. “That was one of the first things I did to see if they added any information.”

Stillwell and Feldman said they weren’t sure how to feel about the Celtics and Bruins canceling games in the wake of the explosions.

“Was it done out of respect or out of fear?” Feldman said.

“If it’s out of respect that they didn’t play the games after, I feel like we have to go on with our activities,” Stillwell said. “But if it was out of safety concerns, that’s OK.”

“The next course of action is daily life,” Feldman said.

Easthampton resident Joe Coleman was among the people trying to reach loved ones by cellphone. The wife of Coleman’s best friend was running in the race. When he heard about the explosions, he immediately texted his friend. But like many people trying to contact loved ones in Boston on Monday, Coleman was unable to get through. About 30 minutes after he sent the text, Coleman’s friend called to say his wife had crossed the finish line 15 minutes before the explosions and everyone was fine.

“It was probably a terrorist attack. Unfortunately, that’s the way things are today,” said Coleman. He clarified his comment this way: “I don’t mean to say it’s terrorist people, or it was someone from another country. Maybe it was someone here. But it was obvious to me that they were trying to put terror into people.”

“I’m a prayerful person. I prayed to God that all of the people I know are safe and I prayed for the injured,” Coleman said. “I feel like I did my part and things are going to get back to normal.”

Trying to make sense

Coleman said while he is upset and saddened by what happened in Boston, other tragedies occur every day.

“It’s a confused world,” Coleman said. “Not to minimize this, but there’s so much evil in the world today. I don’t think I’m desensitized, but there are so many other issues today. It’s awful and I hope they get the culprits who did this and bring them to justice.”

“Obviously, this person was trying to make a statement: It’s Tax Day or Patriots Day or the marathon, there was something he was against,” Coleman said. “I hope we catch him or her and find out what was going on in that person’s mind.”

Tim Baldwin, of Northampton, said as he’d looked at the pictures from Boston, he wondered what would drive somebody to do this. “Why does something like this even happen? People always surprise me. I try to understand their thinking: Why do they do the things they do. It’s shocking and tragic when things like this happen.”

On the UMass campus, students and faculty expressed shock and confusion in the aftermath of the explosions.

Gray Milkowski, 15, a high school student who was touring UMass at the time of the attack, said it was shocking.

“I’ve always thought of Boston not as a center of those kinds of events; it’s always been sort of shrouded,” Milkowski said. “It really hit home.”

Like so many others, Mary Chapin, 56, a Northampton resident and labor studies graduate student, said she was confounded by the violence.

“It baffles me that someone would want to take such a celebratory event and turn it into such a tragedy. It makes me wonder about the psychology of the perpetrator,” she said.

“I thought it was inevitable, and very sad,” said Keith Ulrich, 52, of Pelham. “Obviously, it’s such a tragedy that an event that didn’t need a lot of security before will never be the same again.”

And like Chapin, he has questions about the person responsible.

“I hope it was some lone nut, and not something more organized, as it looks like it might be,” he said.

Refusing to bend to fear

Chapin and others interviewed by Gazette reporters said the bombings would not keep them away from public gatherings, including sporting events like the Marathon.

“I’m not a worrier. I feel like I don’t want to lead a life like that. What will be, will be,” said Chapin.

Interviewed at midday in downtown Northampton Tuesday, Mickens said the bombings would not change the way she and her family live their lives. “You can’t control everything that happens,” she said. “You can pray, and you can have faith that your family will be safe. You have to live your life.”

Berube, the UMass accounting major, said he has confidence in the efforts undertaken by police, and besides, “You can’t live your life in fear,” he said.

But others said fear is now a part of life that is inescapable.

“You’re not really safe anywhere,” said Yves Antoine, 18, of Northampton. “Something can just happen and you don’t go home at the end of the day. You never know.”

UMass sophomore Valerie Wittman, 20, a communications major, said that attack has changed how she thinks about attending sporting events like the marathon.

“I don’t understand why these things keep happening,” said Wittman. “It’s the first time in a while that I’ve actually been afraid.”

Mary Lou Splain, 53, of Easthampton said the attacks will not keep her from attending similar events.

“America’s preoccupation with safety is misguided,” she said. “There’s no way a government or community can make a place one hundred percent safe. We hope to minimize it, but it just happens.”

And she, like others, felt empathy for those in the line of fire. “Having run long distances before, I could sort of place myself in the position of a runner or a spectator,” Splain said. “It upsets me that somebody could get so angry and upset that they could take it out on so many people — we, as a society, need to come to grips with why people are reacting in this way against their fellow humans.”

“It’s heart-wrenching, and it feels really close to home. Closer than anything else,” said Kimberly Bressem, 42, of Hatfield. “It definitely gives me pause.”

Inspired by those who helped

Bressem also said she felt moved at how well taken care of people were in the aftermath of the explosions.

“I’m glad they were so close to so many hospitals,” she said.

Back at the Western Village shop, Bill Durkee, the six-time marathoner, said he, too, had been moved by the stories of runners who immediately started helping the injured, some of them even ripping off their jerseys to use as tourniquets and bandages.

“I’m proud of what they did,” he said.

Durkee said that in the post-9/11 world, the marathon tragedy was not a complete shock. “I always felt it could happen, though I obviously hoped and prayed it would never would. The runners are sitting ducks, there are so many open spots.”

Durkee said he would consider running Boston again, and he wouldn’t be surprised if next year’s marathon had a record number of participants.

“Runners are pretty tough,” he said. “We won’t be defeated.”

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