BOSTON April 16, 2013 -- Several parents from Sandy Hook, Conn., ran in the Boston Marathon as guests of honor as a way for Boston to help those families heal from last December's massacre of children.
Instead, the six Sandy Hook families found themselves again besieged by sirens, ambulances and shocking carnage.
"It was all those same things, the police and fire and all of that. It's severely traumatic," said Lauren Nowacki, one of the Connecticut moms who competed in Monday's marathon.
"We thought things were finally getting to a good place from the first go-around, and now this," Nowacki said.
Nowacki, whose daughter was at Sandy Hook Elementary on the day of the shooting but was unharmed, helped organize a group of runners to participate in the marathon. Thankfully, she said, all of them had finished the run before two bombs exploded at the finish line, injuring more than 170 people and killing three.
Nowacki said that she had finished running the marathon about a half hour before the bombs exploded Monday afternoon, and that all of the other Newtown runners had also passed the finish line before the blasts. The runners' children, other family members, and supporters had been sitting in the grandstand right near the site of the explosion, but had already left the area, she said.
For Nowacki it was another excruciating too close for comfort moment.
"My kids were in the grandstand before I finished. Then we were back at the hotel, and I heard the alarms going off and got a text message from someone about the bomb, but all the Newtown families had already finished. Everyone from the Newtown community finished and had left," she said.
Nevertheless, the day brought back startling memories of Dec. 14 when gunman Adam Lanza opened fire on the students at Sandy Hook, and parents waded through a sea of emergency workers to try and secure their children, she said.
The Boston Marathon organizers dedicated the run to the Newtown victims, and Nowacki explained before the race that they would run the first 20 miles to honor the 20 students killed by Lanza, and the last six miles of the marathon to honor the six educators who were killed.
After the bombs exploded, organizers quickly called the families to make sure they were safe.
"Boston really reached out to us," Nowacki said. "Even after the bombing, the communications director from the race called to make sure all the kids were all right."
Now, the Newtown group will try to return the favor, by attempting to honor the fallen and injured from the Boston bombings with their own annual race, their local Sandy Hook 5k Run, Nowacki said.
"You know, they dedicated 26 miles to us. The least we can do is 3 miles for them," she said.