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Frazee grad mere block from bombs

Samantha Laine, right, pictured after finishing a four-mile fun-run in downtown Boston on Easter Sunday, lives in Boston and was about a block away when bombs went off Monday. 

It’s the little decisions in life that can make the biggest impact. 

Samantha Laine learned that firsthand during the bombing of the Boston Marathon last week.

The 2008 Frazee-Vergas High School graduate has been living in Boston for about a year and a half and was roughly a block away from where the bombs exploded.

“Marathon Monday is a huge deal in Boston,” Laine, 23, said. “I knew I was going to go to the race for work, or that I was going to go just for myself. I wound up having the day off, and I remember just being really excited about that.”

So she and her roommate made their way into the city and stood near the 26-mile marker, cheering on runners for their last mile of the race.

“It was just really cool to see that and be a part of that. I remember the crowd and the energy and just being, ‘This is so cool, I’m so excited I get to be a part of this day.’”

And if it wasn’t for her education and job, she may never have witnessed that excitement, or the piece of history she was about to be a part of as well.

After earning her undergraduate degree from North Dakota State University in English, Laine applied to four universities across the United States to earn her masters in journalism. Northeastern University in Boston is the one she chose to attend because of a scholarship she received.

“Otherwise Boston wasn’t even on my radar,” she said.

She started the graduate program in August 2011, graduating the following August. She then secured an online job with the Boston Globe at, covering local small town news out of Somerville, a suburb of Boston.

Being at the race

So as Laine and her roommate gathered along the race route, they cheered for everyone and anyone pushing their way to the finish line.

“A lot of the racers would write their names on their racing bibs or their arms, so my roommate and I were like, ‘Go, Bob! Go, Jill!’ We just wanted to make it personal.”

She said it was visible that some runners were struggling after running 25 miles but when they would hear their names, it gave them that extra boost to keep heading for that finish line.

“It was just so cool to be in that moment, I gave them that little bit of hope and energy and adrenaline to keep going and push themselves. I was having the time of my life, basically.”

Laine’s roommate started to get chilly though and wanted to leave the race. Though Laine said she didn’t want to because she was having so much fun, she agreed and they started to walk toward the finish line because they had originally come from that direction.

Then, because of the massive amount of people, they decided to cut over one block off the marathon route.

“I would have liked to stay on the race route to continue to watch the run as we were making our way back, but I was like, ‘OK, it would be faster to make our way back.’”

They cut across one street and could still hear the sounds of the race but couldn’t see anything happening. They had walked about five minutes when they heard the first explosion.

“Everyone on the street just stopped and looked at each other like, ‘What was that?’”

She said she and her roommate thought maybe thunder, or maybe a truck hitting a major pothole, but then the second bomb was detonated and they knew it was something much bigger.

While her roommate wanted to get home, Laine had to go see what was going on, so they split up and she retraced their steps back to the race route.

No one really knew what was going on or what to do or where to go, she said. People weren’t quite sure what was going on but people were crying and some were talking about bombs and blood.

“I got to the point where I don’t have my camera and I don’t have anything that I can do, I don’t know how to get to the scene to help, I feel like I’m just another body that’s in the way, so I thought I’d go home. I remember feeling so defeated and useless.”

Rollercoaster of emotions

She made it home eventually and she and her roommate turned on the television and watched for hours.

“It was the shock of knowing that we were there.”

They looked online and realized they were only a block away on the parallel street from where the bombs exploded.

“We were just so thankful that we were safe because so many small decisions were made that in the scheme of life don’t seem that important.”

It was small decisions like the fact that being cold had won over staying at the race longer. Or the fact that they crossed over one street because of the crowds. Or that they were planning to meet friends near the finish line but then didn’t.

“All of these little things that really prevented me from being there. The last few days have been a rollercoaster of emotions,” she said. “It’s being thankful that I wasn’t there and that I was safe, but then I ended up feeling guilty or useless, like Iwasn’t able to do anything.”

Laine said she hasn’t been back to the scene since leaving the marathon, but a friend described it as eerie, with armed guards everywhere.

While she was at the scene, Laine said she never felt scared but it was just instinct to want to help and the whole situation was so surreal. Now a few days after the tragedy, she said she’s still not scared but thinks more about the little decisions that were made that kept her from being even closer to the explosions.

“I really am lucky.” 

So close to the suspects

“As I woke up to the news this morning,” she said Friday morning, “our whole city is on lockdown again and we’re not supposed to leave our apartment and all the public transportation is down.”

Somerville is next to Cambridge, which is where one of the suspects killed an MIT officer.

“They just released where he (the suspect) lived, and he lived in Somerville and he actually lived right down the street from us. He was our neighbor. I never met him, I never knew him, but I probably walked by him on the sidewalk.”

A city comes together

“How can you have hope in all this?”

Laine said the one cool thing that has come out of this tragedy is that the community has come together.

Boston, she said, is a cold city where people aren’t friendly and smiling at strangers.

“It’s definitely not Minnesota,” she said with a laugh.

And it’s also a very intellectual city, being the home of MIT and Harvard universities, and people forget to “get outside of themselves and reach out to the community,” she said.

But, since the explosions and all that has followed, she said she’s seen the community turn inward and give each other the support. Even though people may have support from outside the city, like she does with family back in Minnesota, they haven’t experienced it and can’t understand like those in Boston.

She said there are makeshift memorials all over, and in Cambridge, a friend saw Post-It notes stuck everywhere, reminding people they are loved.

“We can’t change what happened, it’s horrible, and there are no answers, but we can be there for each other.

“It’s so tragic, and we are all human. We are all connected to this event in some way. The support is needed and appreciated so much.”

She has felt that personally with people contacting her via texting, Facebook, etc. that she hasn’t talked to in a long time, just making sure that she is OK.

“The motto has been, ‘Pray for Boston.’ I see it all over. But it’s recognizing that that’s not just a motto but something that needs to be done.”

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.