April 15, 2014 -- In the days and weeks after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Kristin Biagiotti made one request to all the neighbors, friends and family who visited her daughter Kayla. Don’t tell her what happened at the finish line.
When the first bomb went off, Kristin, 47, and Kayla Biagiotti were only a few feet from the finish line. The force of the blast pushed the pair sideways.
For years, Biagiotti had run the Boston Marathon for the Boston Children’s Hospital. However, last year was Kayla’s first year participating in the race.
Kayla was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease at age 3. The disease -- a result of damaged mitochondria in the body’s cells -- affected Kayla’s heart and her mental development. Biagiotti, who pushed her daughter in a special wheelchair, said Kayla didn’t comprehend the explosions.
"She was cheering and laughing and high-fiving people [throughout the race]. She thought she was a rock star,” said Biagiotti. “When the bombs went off ... she thought it was fireworks."
Biagiotti was flanked by her fiancé Brian Bridges, 49, and pushing 18-year-old Kayla in her wheelchair, when the blast pushed all three of them sideways.
Biagiotti exhausted from running and pushing her daughter 26.2 miles initially didn’t realize the explosion was from a bomb.
“When I heard that first explosion I wasn’t thinking it was bomb-bomb. I thought it was a natural gas mane or something," said Biagiotti.
Seconds later, a second bomb went off. Bridges grabbed the wheelchair from Biagiotti and told her, "We got to get the hell out of here."
Bridges suffered a shrapnel injury to the head and photos from the scene show him holding his arm to his head as he pushes Kayla toward the finish line with Biagiotti running behind him.
Once inside the tent, Biagiotti’s brother-in-law immediately wheeled Kayla out to the street on the opposite side of the tent to get her out of danger and shield her from seeing the more critically wounded.
Biagiotti stayed with Bridges in the tent so he could get medical attention for the superficial shrapnel wound to his head. Eventually, a nurse gave him gauze to hold to his wound and they left to get treatment.
However, Biagiotti now had no idea where Kayla had been taken. For one agonizing hour she searched the area for her daughter and other family members.
“I felt like I aged 30 years,” said Biagiotti.
Eventually Biagiotti was reunited with her daughter at a hotel.
"I wanted to cry and I couldn’t cry because I was so emotional," she said.
74 Year Old Plans on Running 100th Marathon at Boston MarathonIt took four hours for the family to get back to their home in Mendon, Mass. When friends and relatives visited after the race, Biagiotti warned them that Kayla still did not know what had actually happened.
"She had been treated like a rock star all day," said Biagiotti. "She still has that excitement behind the marathon."
This year, Biagiotti will again be running the race -- although Kayla will stay on the side lines to cheer her mom on.
"I think it's part of the healing process to run this year," said Biagiotti. "We have an unbelievable Boston strong community I feel I need to be out there for that same support."