Journal Pioneer sports editor in Boston
BOSTON, Mass. — Jason Simmonds would have been standing at the finish line, watching Prince Edward Island runners cross, if it hadn’t been for the Ottawa Senators.
The Journal Pioneer’s sports editor is currently in Boston, on vacation, with his wife, Sheila, and stepson AJ Cahill.
On Sunday, Sheila and Jason were standing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the very spot where dozens were injured and at least two killed following a pair of explosions Monday afternoon.
Sunday, AJ was running the five-kilometre race that is part of the marathon.
“It’s surreal,” said Jason, when contacted by phone late Monday, only a couple of hours after the deadly explosion. “That’s where we would have been today.”
The plan had been to return to the finish line Monday to watch the runners.
But Kinkora native and Ottawa Senators assistant coach Dave Cameron offered Jason, Sheila, a die-hard Sens fan, and AJ the chance to sit in on Monday morning’s practice. The Sens were scheduled to take on the Boston Bruins Monday night, a game that would later be cancelled because of the situation in the city.
“Dave Cameron saved my life,” said Simmonds.
Jason hadn’t spoken to any of the Island runners on Monday but did speak to Linkletter’s Scott Clark on Sunday.
The family spent Monday morning watching the Senators practice before hitting the shops. Soon after, when walking by a pub, Jason heard the news of the explosion.
“We paused for a second,” he said. “We kept hearing sirens. They kept going and going and going.”
When they realized what was happening, Jason and Sheila began calling friends and family on the Island to let them know they were safe.
For Willard Mokler, the news of the explosion rocked his household. His daughter and son-in-law, Janice and Mike MacKinnon, were in Boston for the marathon.
Mike had run the course, the first Islander to finish, in 2:40:26, long before the explosions occurred.
Mokler is staying with the MacKinnon’s children, who urged their grandfather to make contact with their parents to ensure they were safe.
Mokler hasn’t actually spoken with Mike or Janice but with another Summerside couple they are travelling with. All were far from the site, on the outskirts of the city, and safe.
“Mike finished about 1 o’clock,” said Mokler. “They were in the process of leaving the city, I believe, at the time when we called them. They were pretty well outside the city when the blast occurred.”
Mokler also confirmed that Linkletter runner Scott Clark was safe.
“He came in five minutes after Mike and is safe also. I don’t know about the rest of them.”
Mokler heard about the explosion on television. Sketchy telephone reception meant that he couldn’t contact Mike and Janice on their cellphone, leaving them to call Francois Caron and his wife, who are travelling with the MacKinnons.
“Relief,” is what Mokler said when asked how he felt after getting confirmation Mike and Janice were safe. “We are getting a lot of phone calls.”
Eighteen Islanders were registered to run the Boston Marathon.
A search of the Boston Marathon website confirmed that the following runners did finish the race: Clark, MacKinnon, Paul Dalton of St. Edward, Dave Clark of Linkletter, Brenda Benson of Summerside, Beth Ellen Brown, Stan Chaisson, Chris Matters, Leo McCosham, James Mutch and David Gallant all of Charlottetown, Marian Grant, Jennie Orr and Shawn Shea all of Stratford and Kristy Newson.
The last Islander registered was Beverley Walsh of Charlottetown in 3:48:48.
Runners Kimberley Bailey, Dianne Pye and Walsh are not listed on the Boston Marathon website as having finished the race.