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For 90 frantic minutes Monday afternoon, Gregg Sierminski and his wife wandered through the chaos, searching for their daughter, Rachel, who finished the Boston Marathon a half hour before two explosions near the finish line killed three people and injured more than 100 others.

Rachel Sierminski, a member of Marian Central's 1998 state championship cross country team, was running the famed Boston course for the first time. Despite knowing she had finished, Sierminski, who lives in McHenry and works as a dentist in Wonder Lake, was forced to deal with uncertainty while he and his wife continued their search for their daughter.

Initially, their search was unsuccessful as they got lost in the congestion that followed the two explosions. They heard the blasts from a few hundred yards away and finally located Rachel an hour and a half after she finished.

"You figure she's OK, but you just don't know," Sierminski said Monday night. "The marathon people were great helping us track her down and we learned she was all right."

Rachel Sierminski was one of more than 20 McHenry County runners participating in Monday's marathon. Family members the Northwest Herald was able to reach Monday said most of the local participants weren't in the area of the finish line when the explosions took place.

Lakewood resident Linda Bailey finished within 30 seconds of the explosion, according to race results. Bailey wrote on her Facebook page Monday evening that she was "shaken, but OK."

"Hotel on lockdown," Bailey wrote. "I just want to get home."

Algonquin resident Mark Windsor, 51, could heard the ambulance sirens from his downtown hotel after he finished the race.

“I'm just shocked," Windsor said. “I just ran past there a half an hour before it happened."

David Neil of Marengo said his father, Alan Neil, finished the race and was safe.

“He's great. He had a good race. He was worried about that more than anything," Neil said.

Walt Calder, a member of the Hillstrider Running Club, confirmed that two marathon runners, Bob Walsh of Huntley and Cheryl Naughton of Crystal Lake, were both unharmed.

Gregg Sierminski credited race officials and emergency personnel for handling the scene as well as could have been expected. There was no panic in the way he saw officials attempting to keep runners calm, but he couldn't get over the sound of the explosions.

"It was the loudest thing I've ever heard. I knew it was something bad," Gregg Sierminski said. "I'm really sorry for the victims. People look forward to this for so long and then this happens."

Jennifer Emmert of McHenry tracked her husband Steve's progress on her cell phone and by trading text messages with her sister-in-law. Jennifer said Steve finished about 40 minutes before the explosions, but took an extra half hour to get through all of the post-race activities. He left the scene to board the subway to return to Cambridge, Mass., where he is staying on Harvard University's campus.

Steve was told the subways had stopped running because of what a conductor called a blown transformer.

Back in McHenry, Jennifer watched the story unfold on the news, first hearing about the explosions when a breaking news alert interrupted normal programming.

She said she knew Steve was fine after receiving a photo of him at the finish line via a text message. But while her husband was uninjured, she couldn't shake the video accounts of the incident she watched on television.

"It was surreal," Jennifer said. "It was beyond anything I thought would ever happen. It was just shocking and kind of crazy. It's unbelievable really."

Steve Emmert said he didn't hear the explosions and learned details of the scene from family members who were watching back in McHenry County. Unable to find a train that was running, Emmert said he and his friends walked back to Cambridge, hearing a host of sirens. He said he eventually learned all of his friends running the event were unharmed.

It wasn't until he reached his accommodations that he saw the first images of the scene. He said the events of the day changed the way he'll remember his first Boston Marathon.

"It just left me with a sickening feeling in my stomach," he said. "I just can't believe someone would do this at an event like this. I feel good about my time and normally, you would feel excited and celebratory, but now, I really don't know how to feel."

** Available for a limited time at http://www.nwherald.com/2013/04/15/area-residents-who-ran-in-boston-marathon-react/aqgodns/?page=1

Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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