Webster University alumnus Tony Reed, family safe after Boston Marathon tragedy

Brandon Watkins (left) hugs his wife, Jaulik Watkins, who attended Webster University in the fall of 2000, after the two met near the 25.5-mile marker of the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15. A Boston Marathon volunteer told Jaulik Watkins to stop running at that point because two bombs had detonated near the race’s finish line. PHOTO COURTESY OF TONY REED.

Webster University alumnus Tony Reed stood near the finish line of the April 15 Boston Marathon about 15 minutes before the first of two bombs exploded during the race.

Reed and his wife, Deborah, were in attendance to watch his stepdaughter, Jaulik Watkins, compete in her first-ever Boston Marathon. Brandon Watkins, Jaulik Watkins’ husband, was also at the marathon. Jaulik Watkins attended Webster in the fall of 2000 before transferring to Baker University (Kan.), where she completed a degree in business.

When the Reeds and Brandon Watkins arrived at the finish line from their previous spot at the 16.5-mile marker, they realized they still had about 40 minutes until Jaulik Watkins would cross the finish line. They decided to go to a nearby mall’s food court to grab a quick bite to eat.

“Had we not gone inside to get something to eat, we would have been in the area of the explosions,” Tony Reed said. “We would have been the people mingling around waiting for (Jaulik Watkins) to cross the finish line. Once we got inside the mall, the explosions occurred. And the food court was near the second explosion.

“There was a stampede inside the mall of people running to get out. From where we were, we couldn’t tell if people were running because there was a gunman in the mall or what was going on. So, we just took off running. And when we got outside the mall is when — from just talking with other people — we found out about the explosions.”

When they ran out of the mall, Tony and Deborah Reed got separated from Brandon Watkins. After the Reeds tracked him down, they called and texted Jaulik Watkins. They couldn’t get a hold of her, so they walked the marathon course and found her between mile 25 and 26. Police and Boston Marathon volunteers had stopped all the runners near that spot, Tony Reed said.

Jaulik Watkins was doing “fantastic,” Tony Reed said. Jaulik Watkins said while she was running, she noticed “lots of police officers” on the sides of the course talking to spectators. But she didn’t know what had transpired until a Boston Marathon volunteer told her two bombs had been detonated near the finish line.

[pullquote]“We heard the sound — like a big ‘boom’ — right around mile 19,” Jaulik Watkins said. “And then by mile 21, there were a bunch of helicopters in the sky. We saw ambulances going towards the finish line around mile 21. … None of us reacted. The crowd was still going; the runners were still running.[/pullquote]

“We heard the sound — like a big ‘boom’ — right around mile 19,” Jaulik Watkins said. “And then by mile 21, there were a bunch of helicopters in the sky. We saw ambulances going towards the finish line around mile 21. … None of us reacted. The crowd was still going; the runners were still running.

“I didn’t notice anything until I was stopped. And that was at mile 25.5, when a volunteer pulled myself and another woman to the side and said, ‘Go ahead and stop because they’re not going to let you cross the finish line.’”

After he found Jaulik Watkins, Tony Reed — co-founder of the National Black Marathoners Association (NBMA) — called members of the NBMA who were running in the Boston Marathon to make sure they were OK.

Tony Reed said they were all fine, but one of the members knew someone who was hit by a pellet while crossing the finish line. Tony Reed said he doesn’t know the person’s current condition, just that he or she was not one of the three individuals killed at the event.

Hospitals treated more than 140 people for injuries related to the bomb detonations, CNN reported. At least 17 people are in critical condition and an additional 25 are in serious condition, CNN said late Tuesday night.

The two bomb blasts occurred at approximately 2:50 p.m. EST and were about 550 feet apart, The New York Times reported. As of late Tuesday night, no suspect was in custody.

The Boston Marathon began in 1897 and is the world’s oldest annual marathon. The 26.2-mile race is always held on Patriots’ Day, a Massachusetts state holiday that occurs the third Monday in April.

Tony Reed has completed more than 100 marathons the past 31 years and was the first African-American to run marathons on all seven continents. He was supposed to compete in his first Boston Marathon on April 15. He received a special invitation to run the event, but couldn’t due to his schedule. So, he gave the special invitation to Jaulik Watkins, who, like Tony Reed, is a certified running coach.

Tony Reed, a 1978 Webster graduate, is planning on running in the 2014 Boston Marathon. To honor the three people who were killed and the 140-plus who were injured at the Boston Marathon, Reed and runners across the country wore running- or marathon-related shirts on Tuesday, April 16.

Tony Reed said he doesn’t think the Boston Marathon bombings will deter long-distance runners from competing in future events.

“The way a number of us look at this is we run because we enjoy it,” Tony Reed said. “I like to think of running a marathon or running any race as like a stop along a bus route of life. You run it, you finish it and then you just move on to what’s next.

“So, I don’t think this has had a negative impact on distance running overall. What I believe it will do is it will help make the races more secure. But I think runners are just going to keep on running. You’re looking at a very tough group of individuals — tough and very focused.”

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