Tammy Draughon knew that finishing the Boston Marathon would be a jewel in her string of running achievements. The Temecula woman didn’t know, however, that completing the race would place her at the center of a deadly, heart-wrenching tragedy.
Neither Draughon nor her husband, a race spectator, was injured during the pair of terrorist-linked bombings that rocked the finish line of the April 15 race. But their lives, and those of their four children, were dramatically reshaped by the explosions that killed three race onlookers and wounded 264 others.
“It was really strange and it was hard to deal with,” Draughon said in an interview after she returned home from the race.
The tragedy seemed to unfold all around Draughon and her husband, Kevin.
First there was Tammy’s ordeal of being a short distance from the first explosion and being inside the race’s first aid tent as wounded spectators were rushed in and treated.
Next came the difficult process of trying to find her husband amid the chaos and confusion. Once the couple was reunited, they painstakingly made their way to the city’s subway system and eventually on to the airport and back home.
And, finally, came an outpouring of relief from family, friends and fellow church members. That emotional release came at a cost, however, as it shocked the Draughons’ children to realize that their parents’ lives could have been lost in the blink of an eye.
“The attention was kind of overwhelming,” she said. “I was getting touched and hugged just for being alive. They (friends and acquaintances) didn’t know what to say or how to say it. Watching my children deal with it made it hard for me to deal with it.”
Boston was Tammy Draughon’s fifth marathon. She had previously tackled marathons in Los Angeles and St. George, Utah. It was the couple’s first trip to Boston.
Kevin Draughon anchored his usual observation point – the 19-mile mark of the marathon – when Tammy ran past and entered the final leg of the race. After that moment, Kevin continued taking pictures as he began making his way toward the finish line.
She finished the marathon in just under three hours and 50 minutes. She was then escorted into the medical tent after attendants noticed a worrisome drop in her body temperature. She was inside the tent when the pair of homemade bombs went off in rapid succession.
In an instant, she said, maimed and wounded spectators were rushed inside. Other victims were quickly transported to hospitals by ambulances and other vehicles.
“They were awake, but they were in obvious shock and didn’t make any sound at all,” she said. “There was blood everywhere. There was blood on everything. Many of the pictures you saw on TV I saw in person.”
Tammy, 40, said she quickly realized that her medical needs were dwarfed by those of the incoming patients. That realization prompted her to slip out a side door of the medical tent and begin searching for her husband.
Tammy said she, like many other runners, soon became adrift amid the dust and confusion. She doesn’t carry a cell phone when she runs in a marathon, and the chaos overwhelmed all normal channels of communication.
“I was trying to deal with the pictures in my head,” she said. “There were sirens everywhere.”
It was at that point, she said, a kindly Bostonian began to guide her toward safety and to the area where runners connected with their loved ones. That scene – of Boston residents helping isolated and stranded runners – played out throughout the day throughout the city, Tammy said.
“The city of Boston was an incredible place to be,” she said. “It was really inspiring.”
And although lives were lost and the damage was widespread, Tammy said she felt an incredible sense of care and concern as strangers assisted each other.
“I was never afraid. I had a very peaceful feeling,” she recalled. “It was a very palpable feeling. It was very real. My feeling is you can’t have faith and fear coexist. You can still have peace amid fear.”
Tammy said much of her sense of calm and peace likely came from her religious faith.
Tammy and her husband of nearly 20 years worship at the Mormon church along Pauba Road in Temecula. They moved to Temecula in late 2001. He works as a loan originator. She is taking time off her teaching career to help raise their children.
Tammy said she has already qualified to run the Boston Marathon next year, and she delivers a snappy reply when friends and fellow choir members ask if she plans to do so.
“Absolutely yes,” she said. “I would say it was one of the most inspirational experiences I’ve ever had. People don’t usually join together that way in a regular setting.”