Friends and co-workers told former Indiana University goalkeeper Luis Soffner and his girlfriend, Kate Montgomery, that Marathon Monday was “something you’ve got to see and be a part of.” They were right, but for all the wrong reasons when two bombs exploded near the Boston Marathon finish on Boylston Street Monday.
Soffner, now a member of the MLS’ New England Revolution, and Montgomery found themselves right in the middle of it all, literally. They were in an outdoor patio area of a restaurant at mile marker 26.1, just a tenth of a mile from the finish line and a mere 200 yards from the second explosion — on the same side of the street. They didn’t hear the first explosion, but the second couldn’t be missed.
“We weren’t close enough to be affected physically, but we felt and heard the explosion,” Soffner said by phone Tuesday. “It was kind of confusing and just tried to figure out what was going on.”
That part became clear as the restaurant televisions flipped to live news feeds.
“We felt the ground shake, heard sirens and everyone just went dead silent, then on the TV you see blood everywhere,” Montgomery said. “That was gut wrenching.”
Police soon began to evacuate the restaurant into a back alley, and the couple walked at least two miles out of harm’s way before finding a ride back to their apartment in the suburb of Randolph, about 25 minutes away from downtown Boston.
“We felt like were in a safe place again and were able to get a good night’s sleep,” Soffner said nearly 24 hours after those harrowing moments.
You couldn’t blame either of them if they had some trouble sleeping easy going forward. After all, Soffner is a professional athlete playing in stadiums across the country now, while Montgomery is a regular in the stands for those games. Games that more than ever present a large and inviting target for terrorists of any kind.
“I don’t think we’re going to be in fear now of something happening every game,” Soffner said. “But it goes to show you that anything can happen and to count your blessings, don’t take every day for granted.
“For me personally, I don’t think I’m going to be fearful of having Kate in the stands, but it does hit home. It is tough to know that anything like that could happen. With it happening now, we’ll have more security measures taken at our games and other places.”
Those will likely be in evidence when the Revolution head to New York for a game this weekend, but that beefed up security on top of what already exists is what makes Montgomery confident, although she may not be attending another marathon or other public, outdoor event any time soon.
“I don’t think it will change my view on going to events in the bigger stadiums with good security,” she said. “It has probably deterred me from going to most packed public areas of sporting events. Injuring people just on the streets, that definitely scarred us a little bit.”
It’s new territory for young adults like Montgomery and Soffner, who was in sixth grade when the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place. Now the full impact, both socially and psychologically, is more clear.
Yet they also realize the truth of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous words 70 years ago, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and refuse to cower in the wake of Monday’s tragedy. As a matter of fact, Soffner said the Revolution, who were touched directly when starting goalkeeper Matt Reis’ father-in-law was injured in the blast, are embracing the opportunity to represent the best of Boston.
“Since I play for team that represents this city, it hits home more (than 9/11),” Soffner said. “Knowing what I do, not just individually, but collectively and for our club in the public eye means a lot. A good response for us is to show we were affected in different ways, but we are not scared and fearful. We want to continue to keep playing, not only for our own success, but for the success of the city, to win for Boston and the New England area.”