Surviving Boston Marathon
Former PSU student reflects on racing during the marathon bomb attack
Jay Benedict | editor-in-chief
Scott Cichon was still on a high from running his fastest marathon ever on the event’s most prominent stage. He was just getting off the phone with KOAM-TV when tragedy struck.
He had just walked back into his hotel room where his parents were watching a local Boston channel’s live coverage of the marathon when the explosions hit and chaos began.
“My first thought was that it was an act of terror, but we were hoping that it was just some kind of accidental electric or gas explosion,” Cichon said. “Then you wonder about the motive or if it was aimed at someone in particular.”
Cichon is a former PSU basketball player. He played his freshman and sophomore seasons, from 2003-2005, for the Gorillas. Since graduating, he’s become a math teacher, high-school boy’s basketball coach and junior high track coach at St. Mary’s Colgan, in Pittsburg.
Cichon was the first Kansan to cross the finish line by finishing in two hours, 43 minutes and 43 seconds. His accomplishment was quickly overshadowed by sadness.
“We were going to go out and celebrate,” he said. “We planned on having dinner and then going to the Bruins game, which ended up getting canceled. We ended up being confined to the hotel room and were afraid of using public transportation because of the attack. It quickly changed from being a joyful occasion to something morose.”
The bombs went off four hours and nine minutes into the race, a blessing for Scott and his family.
“Thankfully, my family wasn’t in any danger,” he said. “I finished quickly enough that we were able to leave. We were staying in South Boston about two miles away from the blasts. We didn’t hear or feel anything.”
Scott’s sister, Molly Cichon, was supposed to be in Boston with her family for the race.
“I usually go every year with my family and had signed up for the 5k but I wasn’t able to miss class,” said Molly, senior in biology. “I was actually talking to my mom on the phone at the time it happened, so I know everyone was safe at the hotel.”
Scott said the marathon may have been targeted for a number of reasons.
“This was my fourth year running the Boston Marathon and I’ve run a lot of marathons in a lot of states, but Boston is the biggest,” he said. “It’s such a life-giving experience. It gives vitality to everyone involved. This was the exact opposite. It inspired what it was meant to: terror.”
The marathon is always run on Boston’s Patriot Day. This celebrates Paul Revere’s ride and the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
“The marathon also celebrates our country, so it may have been an attack on our freedom, ideals and democracy,” Scott said.
Scott says his parents were on the opposite side of the street from the blasts and were located about midway between the two bombs.
“I don’t know if they would have been hurt, but the potential was there,” Scott said. “Now, we just feel lucky and there are a lot of ‘what ifs.’”
Molly said she knew the area and had been there in previous years.
“The explosions happened less than a block away from where we stand to watch for Scott every year and where my parents were this year,” Molly said. “All I could think at the time we heard about it was, ‘Thank God, Scott was in the first heat and is pretty fast and that everyone was OK.’”
Both siblings have been Celtics fans their entire lives on top of being to Boston many times. Scott says that for a large city, Boston feels like a close-knit community.
“If there’s one thing Boston celebrates, it’s toughness. That’s more than anywhere else I’ve been,” Scott said. “I’ve seen the videos and photos. The moment the bombs go off you see the runners run away from it. Then, you see the volunteers, police, fire and medics. They freeze for a second and as soon as they figure out what happened, they ran to it. Something terrible happened and their knee-jerk reaction was to run into harm’s way and help. That’s the city’s mentality.”
Molly said the attacks captured national attention, but had a greater effect on the individuals involved.
“I can’t imagine how many lives are shattered, especially for the runners who will never be able to do what they love again,” Molly said. “Particularly after accomplishing such a great achievement as running the Boston Marathon.”
Scott says he debated whether to continue running, but quickly decided that he’d be back.
“The attackers wanted to take life, but I think they also want to scare others out of living life. The worst thing to do would be to stop,” Scott said. “If we do, then the people trying to infringe on our freedoms win. I plan on being in Boston next year to do this again.”