Local marathoners rely on new relationship to heal from Boston tragedy

By Marshanna Hester

April 17, 2013 Updated Apr 17, 2013 at 9:59 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- The moment she walked through the gate, Joni Anderson, from Peoria, locked eyes with her family.

It was an emotional reunion following a traumatizing trip she took alone.

"All of a sudden I heard this loud bang and when I turned a gentleman had went down," she said. "Within a matter of seconds, it happened again. And when I turned back, all I could see was blood and fence laying on people."

From then on, she said it was mass confusion, fear and panic.

It all happened about five minutes after Joni finished the race. She said it could have been her.

"It really brings life into perspective," said Anderson. "How short it is and how in a matter of seconds it can change."

"There was chaos, but yet it was silent," said Jenn Blackorby, from Washington, IL. "All I heard were cries, prayers, sirens. "It's just a moment that will never go away."

The moment is one she will share with fellow runner Jenn Blackorby.

Joni and Jenn did not know one another before meeting at Chicago's O'Hare airport to come home Tuesday.

They embraced and cried before speaking one word.

Together, they will work through the tragedy, but still keep those who weren't so lucky in their prayers.

"Those families that couldn't make it across," Anderson said. "The families there supporting the little boy, who was supporting his father who came across, hugged him and he turned his back and he was gone."

The more the images replay, the more they say it hurts.

But living in fear is not an option. It's a message Jenn and her husband will share with their four children.

"You can't hurt this country and you can't break our faith," Blackorby said.

When asked if they would run the marathon next year, both said yes.