Heartland runners return home to families

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Heartland runners returned home from Boston to their families Tuesday night.

The anticipation is over, families and Boston Marathon runners from Cape Girardeau are back together.

Joe Rosati, Steve Schmittzehe and Joe Windeknecht tell us they're so relieved to be home, after the chaos at the marathon Monday and getting delayed in Chicago Tuesday.

They say Monday was a mix of emotions. A high from completing the Boston Marathon, but an extreme low from the bombing devastation.

Rosati had just finished the race moments before the bombs went off.

"A few hundred people running as fast as they could away from the finish line, jumping over the barricades, alongside the road, ducking under trailers, hiding behind these big stone flower pots in the road," said Rosati.

He didn't know what was going on.

"You're very tired at this point, so I was panicking at all, in fact I was too tired to be panicked, the first thought that I had was that it was a cannon, I thought they were celebrating patriots day and they were shooting off a cannon. I thought well if this was Fort D in Cape Girardeau they might be firing off a cannon, but this is downtown Boston, they don't shoot cannons in downtown Boston, there's got to be something else, and then when I looked back over, that was just a few seconds, then when I saw the big ball coming up from behind the finish line I thought that doesn't look like a cannon," said Rosati.

Even though he had just run the 26.2 mile race, he said he found the energy to run after the explosions.

"You find the energy, there wasn't a question of am I too fatigued, you forgot about that at a time like that," said Rosati.

Schmittzehe said he's actually thankful he had a knee injury.

"I ended up running Boston hurt, I had a knee sprain, so I was quite a bit off my time, but it was Boston so I had to run it, and I was thinking as we were sitting in the airport today, it's kind of a tradition as we get finished with races cause we race as teams or groups, most of the time we get finished and we head back to the finish line and wait for our other runners to come in and I got finished quite a bit after what I would normally get finished, or I would have, good possibility that me and my other buddy would have already been back in the very near vicinity of where the explosions went off," said Schmittzehe.

Windeknecht had finished the race, and was trying to walk back towards the finish line to find his friends when the bombs went off.

"I seen the smoke fly up in the air, and I was like oh what was that, and at first I thought maybe it was just part of the marathon, but then second one went off and the smoke and everything, then some younger, I don't know if she was a runner or just a spectator but she come running by and she told her dad, two bombs just went off," said Windeknecht. "When it initially happen, I mean I knew, I knew by the smoke, and I knew by the sound of the blasts, not that I've ever heard a bomb that close, but it was a bomb, but when the girl said that I was like yeah it was, and we all just started heading, I said I'm going that way, I'm getting out of here and that's what the cops were saying too."

He didn't know if his friends had finished the race, or where they were after the explosions.

"I still wanted to find my friends, and I still wanted to make sure, because I hadn't gotten confirmation that they were done yet, and I was just starting to panic myself, you know, I had time to cool down, I mean I was tired, but I wasn't lethargic like I was when I crossed the finish line, I was able to think pretty clearly, but I was just thinking about them," said Windeknecht.

The three Heartland runners said it was difficult to find their way back to the hotel because the police immediately shut down the subways, and taxi cabs were busy shuttling people out of the area.

They say despite the chaos, they want to run the race again next year.

"For those of us running in the event, everyday people that get to run it's a very special thing, again this is my first time going to Boston, it's a bucket list it's a real accomplishment for an amateur like myself to be able to run in an event like this with some of the best runners in the world," said Rosati.

"Don't let it deter you from this wonderful experience the Boston marathon is, it's a great experience it's a once in a lifetime, as Ron said, it's a bucket list, I've had it on my bucket list since I started running these things, and if you're fortunate enough to do it, go do it," said Windeknecht.

They say everyone they met was very nice. Strangers said they're glad they are okay.

"It was quite unusual the attention that we got because we had our Boston jackets on, the marathon jackets on, people just stopping you, you know, a lot of people just stopped us, glad you're okay, shook our hands and just walked on," said Schmittzehe.

All three runners told us they couldn't believe the support from the people as they traveled home. Strangers saying they're glad they're okay.

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