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Shelton runner at marathon: Bombs sounded like ‘thunder’

Amanda Jacob raises money for charity with run, gains perspective from the tragedy

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Amanda Jacob, who grew up in Shelton, makes a heart with her hands for Newtown victim Chase Kowalski before running in the Boston Marathon.

When Amanda Jacob finished the Boston Marathon at 2:20 p.m. on Monday, April 15, she had to wait to meet up with family members.

After receiving water, food, a blanket and her race medal, the 2008 Shelton High School graduate — who ran the race to raise money for young Newtown shooting victim Chase Kowalski — spent time in the family waiting area.

Jacob borrowed someone’s cell phone to call her mother Valerie, who was on her way with Amanda’s sister Katie to the waiting area with Amanda’s bag, which had a change of clothes, her cell phone and other items.

“Then we heard what I thought was thunder,” Jacob said of her and the woman who lent her the cell phone. “We looked around and said, ‘What was that? I don’t know.’”

It was 2:49 p.m.

 

A second noise

A few second later, they heard another noise that also sounded like thunder. “It wasn’t that loud where we were,” she said.

Jacob was about a block and a half away from the closest bombing site. “Where we were, when it happened, no one reacted,” she said, noting she also was “modestly delusional” at the time from having just run more than 26 miles.

Jacob now lives in Charlotte, N.C., where she works as a clinical dietitian.

 

Signs something may be wrong

Jacob borrowed someone else’s cell phone to call her father David, who was in town with Amanda’s step-mother Melissa and brother Nate to watch the race. There was no answer on her father’s cell.

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Amanda Jacob graduated from Shelton High in 2008 and now lives in Charlotte, N.C. (File photo)

A man told them that runners on the course were not being allowed to finish. They observed a little girl crying. They heard sirens, but assumed it was in response to a runner having medical issues, such as a heart attack.

“They started moving people onto the sidewalk, and we saw more ambulances and police cars going through,” Jacob said.

They still were unaware of exactly what was happening less than two blocks away.

Her mom and sister finally arrived and they spent a few minutes interacting and hugging, and began walking toward the apartment of a friend of Katie Jacob, where Amanda was to take a shower.

“It was weird,” Jacob said. “Some people were panicking and crying, while others were calmly eating in restaurants as we passed by.”

 

‘Avoid garbage cans’

Jacob and those with her knew there had been an explosion but still didn’t comprehend the seriousness of the situation — or that it was an intentional act involving bombs. She presumed the thunder-like noises were related to a problem with a street manhole or a vehicle.

“Then we began hearing people talking on the streets and on their phones, saying we should avoid garbage cans because there could be more bombs,” she said.

That’s when they knew for sure.

 

‘We needed to get moving’

But it wasn’t until Jacob stepped out of the shower in the apartment that the true intensity of the situation hit her. The TV was on in the apartment, and everyone realized it was probably time to head home.

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A close-up view of the “Remember Chase” green ribbon pin that Amanda Jacob wore during the Boston Marathon. It was given to her by Chase Kowalski’s family.

“We needed to get moving — to get this plan in motion,” Jacob said.

And that’s what they did. She spoke to her boyfriend by phone in Tennessee, and also was able to reach her father and step-mother by texting them. They had been on a Boston subway (the “T”) to get to the marathon finish line when service was stopped and everyone was told to get off due to the bombings. They then had to walk almost five miles to get back to their car.

Jacob, her mother and her sister left the apartment, walking by a major hospital to reach their car, which was a considerable distance away.

It was 5:30 p.m. or so by the time they reached their car and left Boston for the drive back home to Connecticut. “We were pretty calm,” she said.

 

Raising money for a cause

Jacob emphasized that while what took place at the marathon was a terrible tragedy, there also is a positive side to her participation. She raised more than $3,100 for the Chase Kowalski Memorial Fund to honor 7-year-old Chase, one of the 26 victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December.

She said she felt she was running in Boston for a purpose much bigger than herself. She dedicated her marathon run to Chase because the Newtown youngster loved to run. Jacob raised money from donations through the website FirstGiving.com.

 

‘A spiritual run’

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Chase Kowalski loved to run.

Jacob interacted with Chase’s family before the race, and the Kowalskis gave her a “Remember Chase” green ribbon pin to wear in the race. They presented her with special T-shirts for people to wear on race day.

Chase’s mom also gave Jacob a bag with the name “Chase” on it, which had been given to the mother by someone after her young son died.

“I felt a lot of support from them,” Jacob said. “It was definitely a spiritual run for me. I felt like [Chase] was with me. I was running for something so much more important than a time.”

She said the bombings will not deter her from running in future marathons —including the one in Boston.

 

Insight from tragedies

Flying home to North Carolina after returning back to Connecticut, Jacob sat next to a couple from Newtown. They all talked about the recent tragedies in Boston and Newtown.

Jacob said they concluded that despite the sadness and challenges caused by the incidents, “You have to keep on being positive, keep on doing what you’re doing. The only way to change what is going on is to not let it affect you.”

She remains a trusting person, she said, who will not allow fear — or the actions of bad people — control her life.

Still, her personal connection to the two recent tragedies has given her some perspective. “With Newtown being so close to my hometown, and then being a block away in Boston, you have to think, what could be next?” Jacob said.

 

Donations for Chase’s memorial fund

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From left, Boston Marathon runner Amanda Jacob, brother Nate Jacob and sister Katie Jacob all make hearts for Chase before the marathon.

Jacob still is accepting donations for her Boston Marathon run through the charity-giving website, FirstGiving.com. All donations (minus FirstGiving fees) will go to help Sandy Hook Elementary School families — both victims and survivors — affected by the tragedy.

Her father, David Jacob, had helped set up her FirstGiving.com webpage. They had asked people to  give $1 a mile to her effort (a full marathon is 26.2 miles).

She is amazed that people have been so generous in their support. She has surpassed her goal of raising $2,620 for the memorial fund, with a total of more than $3,100 being contributed so far. “I didn’t think it was possible,” she said.

Learn how to help Jacob at www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/AmandaJacob/race4chase.

 

Her background

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While running, 2008 Shelton High graduate Amanda Jacob makes a heart with her hands to honor a young Newtown victim.

Jacob went to Booth Hill Elementary School and Shelton Intermediate School before attending Shelton High. She was active in cheerleading and gymnastics while growing up.

Her mother and father both live in Shelton.

She finished the Boston Marathon with a time of 3 hours, 58 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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