MEDINA, Ohio - Debbie Hicks of Medina had no sooner finished her third Boston Marathon when she said it happened.
"I heard the explosion go off and then about maybe 30 seconds, a minute later, another one went off," she said.
She saw the smoke, learned it was a bomb and thought immediately about her friend and fellow Medina teacher Roberta Gangl who wasn't far behind.
"I thought ‘Oh God, what happened to her? Was she there?'" Hicks said.
Gangl was a half-mile from the finish line when she said runners were told they had to stop.
"It was just from spectators who were telling us."
The two women started the race together, but Gangl was nursing an injury that was slowing her down.
"We ran together for the first six miles and I said ‘Debbie, go on. You know, it's taking me a little bit longer,'" Gangl said. "Maybe had I not taken as long I might have been right there."
Because cell service was down the two women had difficulty reaching each other. When they could, they were getting calls and texts from concerned friends and relatives in northeast Ohio.
Knowing they needed to get to their hotel before heading off to catch a 6:10 p.m. flight home, both made their way back, but the only problem was the subway was shut down and no cabs were picking up.
Hicks, after completing the marathon, ended up running the 2 to 3 miles to the hotel while Gangl ran into a Boston couple, who not only gave her a ride to the hotel, but waited while she and Hicks gathered their things and then drove them to the airport.
"They wouldn't let us pay them anything," Gangl said. "She felt terrible that we had that experience in Boston."
"We said ‘We'll be back, we will be back.' This will not deter us from going back again," Hicks told the couple. "It's just sad that something like this had to happen to that city, with those wonderful people and are thoughts and prayers are just with them."