Former teacher shares marathon experience

Running in the Boston Marathon was the thrill of a lifetime for Hancock County native Teresa “Terry” DeLong – until Monday’s bomb blasts came perilously close to hurting a group of family members who were there to cheer her on.

“For a while, it was very, very scary,” DeLong said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

DeLong, 65, of New Cumberland, was a half-mile from the finish line on Monday when something happened.

“All at once, everybody stopped. I was thinking, ‘Did somebody fall? What’s going on?'” she said. “Then we found out how serious of an incident it was.”

DeLong’s thoughts immediately turned to her family – her husband, Robert DeLong Sr.; her sister, Cheryl “Sherry” Thrift, of Scott Depot, W.Va.; her son, Robert DeLong Jr., of Fort Mill, S.C.; and her daughter, Tammy Crago, of York, S.C.

All of them had made the trip with her on Saturday and had gathered at the finish line to cheer her on.

“I was trying to text them. They were trying to call me. When you can’t get through, your first thought is …,” she said, her voice trailing off.

Some family members were following DeLong’s progress remotely through an electronic chip she carried in her running shoe, said her niece, Chester attorney April Manypenny Raines.

DeLong finally received a text from her son, Robert, saying the family was OK. Then, she heard the news of the second blast and wondered afresh about her family’s well-being. She never used to run with her cell phone, but on Monday, she was glad she did.

DeLong made phone contact with her other son, Joe DeLong, of Charleston, who told her the family was OK. She learned later that the second bomb had gone off about 10 feet from where the family was standing.

“The only thing that saved them was an electrical box and a big utility pole. On the other side of that box, they saw a man who lost both his legs,” she said. “They didn’t have a mark on them, but there were people all around them who lost limbs.”

DeLong was reunited with her family about an hour later with the help of a police officer who led the runners to a safe area downtown. She said her family had “the most horrible looks on their faces. They said they saw things they would never want to see.”

DeLong and Raines said Thrift was the closest to the blast.

“My aunt Sherry was pretty lucky she made it,” Raines said.

A retired teacher with Hancock County Schools, DeLong qualified for the Boston Marathon by doing well in the Columbus Marathon in October 2011. She said her son is already talking to her about returning to Boston next year.

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