Tuesday | October 17, 2017
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Kona couple block away from explosion


Stephens Media

A West Hawaii marathon runner had a “good” race Monday morning, running a time that helped him avoid a tragedy at the finish line.

Jon Jokiel, a park ranger at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, was in Massachusetts this week for his first Boston Marathon. He finished the race in a relatively good time and began looking for his wife, Theresa, as he headed to a tent for a post-race massage. He even attempted to return to the finish area, after walking away, but found it too crowded to do so.

Less than an hour later, the two reconnected in the massage tent. A few minutes later, they heard a loud explosion. Jon Jokiel said it was hard to judge how close the explosion was, and he wasn’t sure, in the first few seconds, what he had heard.

“The first thing I thought was it was part of the festivities,” he said. “The volunteers and everyone in the room started to get nervous. Everyone was turning on the TVs.”

The television reports started to make clear the noise wasn’t a celebratory cannon shot, but an explosion at the race’s finish line.

“When we were watching the news, the helicopter was flying around,” Jokiel said. “You could see the tent where we were. That’s how I knew we were close.”

The tent was about a block from the explosion, although with all the crowds and other tents in between, Jokiel said he couldn’t see any smoke from the tent.

Not long after the explosion, someone stopped by the massage tent, ordering an end to the massages. The tent, Jokiel said, was going to be used for triage. The Jokiels pitched in moving chairs and tables aside, then left. Theresa Jokiel said she and her husband are both trained as first responders, and that training, and her faith, helped her stay calm as they walked away from the race area and towards the train station.

“We were just praying for the people in the event, the people responding,” she said.

Jon Jokiel said it took the couple about two hours to get out of the city, but they weren’t really rushing, either. They stopped at a hostel where he had stayed the night before to retrieve his bag, and stopped at a marketplace to get some lunch. Just after they ordered, a security guard came in and cleared out the marketplace, he said.

Security officials also searched their bags before they were allowed in to the train station, Jon Jokiel said.

The couple said they didn’t feel afraid or anxious as they made their way out of Boston.

“Everybody was just good Samaritans,” Theresa Jokiel said, adding people went “above and beyond” what might be expected of them.

“In the moment, I was sore and a little bit out of it,” Jon Jokiel added. “I didn’t sense fear. People just did (what they needed to do) and left.”

Email Erin Miller at emiller@westhawaiitoday.com.


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