Reflecting on tragedy


OBSERVER Assistant News Editor

April 15 began as a beautiful day for a run in Boston. However, instead of happiness waiting beyond the finish line, there was a much more tragic ending to the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Fredonia resident Michael Bobseine and his daughter Kate Rose Bobseine were there that day. They took a bus to Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton and enjoyed breakfast while meeting with runners from around the world.

Bobseine described the Boston Marathon as the “Holy Grail for runners of a particularly crazy ilk.” This was Bobseine’s fourth Boston Marathon, his 10th marathon overall, and Kate Rose’s third. Their goal was just to finish the race.

The pair wore nameplates with the names Ollie and Betty emblazoned on them for Michael’s father and late mother, Kate Rose’s grandparents. Michael explained this was so they could symbolically run the Boston Marathon with him and Kate Rose. After Betty’s death last October, it was also meant as a tribute.

Bobseine explained the Boston Marathon is unique for both the size of the crowds and how the crowds interact with the runners – chanting and slapping hands along the entire course.

“One of the truly incredible things about Boston is that there are hundreds of thousands of spectators – 500,000 is the estimate that I have seen – lining nearly the entirety of the 26.2-mile course.

“It is always held on Patriots’ Day, which is an exclusively New England holiday. The Boston Marathon is the primary focus of the day in Boston.

“And, the spectators in Boston like to participate and they vocally interact with the runners. So, if you give the marathon fans something specific to focus on, such as your name tag, they ‘run’ with it. A name tag sets up a wonderful interaction between a runner and the marathon fans.

“The marathon fans yell encouragement using your name – ‘Go Betty!’ or ‘Go Ollie!’ They yell comments like ‘There is Betty; and look, she is with Ollie!’ And they chant loudly, most often near the various college campuses or outside taverns,” he described.

Bobseine said it was uplifting and emotional to hear the crowds cheer for him and Kate Rose using his parents’ names. He recorded audio for the final 4.2 miles and remembers the loud shouts of the crowd as he and Kate Rose approached the finish.

“The crowds were boisterous and became thicker and more boisterous as we entered the last two miles. Into the final mile, we turned right onto Massachusetts Avenue and then left onto Boylston Street. The crowd was large and loud and I believe my cassette confirms the loud(ness). The shouts of ‘Go Betty,’ and ‘Go Ollie,’ were full-throated and pushing.

“When you make that final turn, you can see the finish line in the near distance. For the final .2 miles, Kate Rose and I locked hands and ran together. We were chased home: ‘Go Betty!,’ ‘Go Ollie!’ We crossed the finish line with the race clock showing 4 hours and 2 minutes,” he said.

The two embraced and along with hundreds of others headed for the area with blankets, water, food and waiting family and friends. Bobseine turned his recorder off after finishing the race.

Just seven minutes after crossing the finish line, they heard the first explosion.

“We turned and saw the billowing smoke. We then heard the second blast. While I immediately recognized what this represented, Kate Rose innocently, hopefully, asked me what I thought the blasts were.

“… I was once again the young and inexperienced father with the inadequate answer. And, when it sunk in what the sounds represented, Kate Rose asked a second question with tears in her eyes, ‘Who would do such a thing?’

“I had no answer. I have no answer,” he said.

All the joy from finishing the race was gone. Michael and Kate Rose saw the medical personnel rushing toward the wounded.

“First responders started to come at us and through us and things became methodical: Go to the baggage buses, get our bags and cell phones, call our family and friends to let them know we are OK,” he said.

Matt, Kate Rose’s boyfriend, and Michael’s son (Kate Rose’s brother), Jeb and his girlfriend Gingle were all in the area at the time of the race.

“Kate Rose and I had to do several things immediately afterward. We did not know where Matt was. We had last seen him at approximately mile 23. We assumed that he was trying to get to us, but that would have required him to get around the finish line area, which became confused, constricted and restricted as first responders descended on the area.

“We thought that Jeb was at his office in the John Hancock Building, which overlooks Boylston and Copley Square where the first bomb went off. We had no knowledge of Gingle or her whereabouts. Kate Rose and I each had cell phones in our gear bags, but our gear bags were on different buses and we had to get to them and hope our bags were readily available,” he explained.

They got to their bags and Kate Rose called Matt and Jeb as Bobseine called his wife, Susan Parker, back in Fredonia.

“Susan had no idea what was happening and was taken aback by my news. I recall saying something like, ‘Suzi, there have been bombings at the finish line, but Kate Rose and I are OK and we are moving out of the area and trying to find a safe meeting place. I’ll call you back as soon as possible. Love you.’ She was horrified at the news and asked immediately about Jeb and Gingle and Matt. I had to tell her that we would get back to her as soon as we had news and could call,” he said.

Kate Rose was able to get a hold of Matt, Jeb and Gingle and organized meeting up at Boston Commons. While they waited, they began texting family and friends to let then know they were OK.

They reunited with Matt, Jeb and Gingle and were able to take the subway to Kate Rose’s apartment. Michael flew back to Buffalo Tuesday morning and noted the airport was very busy and security was tight.

Since Michael has been back in Fredonia he said many people have been kind to him and his family. He has also begun running again.

“So many people have been kind and thoughtful and caring to me and our family. I am not a religious or spiritual person and essentially believe that most everyone has a capacity for love. While this event rocks your world, it has also reinforced in me that essential belief.”

He said in looking back on the day, not all his memories are bad.

“I cannot help but come back to what so many in Boston said over and over and over again to Kate Rose and me on that gorgeous terrible day, “Go Betty! Go Ollie!” he added.

Bobseine said this was supposed to be his final marathon, but Kate Rose is trying to convince him to run for charity in Boston again next year.

One Fund Boston is raising money for victims and those affected by the bombings. To donate go to or donations may be mailed to: One Fund Boston, Inc., 800 Boylston Street #990009, Boston, MA 02199.

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