Teacher recalls Boston Marathon bombing, lessons learned

By Rob Sweeting, Anchor, rsweeting@wjxt.com
Jodi Mohrmann, Managing editor of special projects, jmohrmann@wjxt.com
Published On: Apr 17 2014 03:21:59 PM EDT
Updated On: Apr 17 2014 10:10:00 PM EDT

VIDEO: Clara Podreski, a Camden middle school teacher, shares her story of running across the Boston marathon finish line minutes before the first bomb exploded. She says the events that took place gave her the drive to get back training with a determination to return to Boston this year.

KINGSLAND, Ga. -

Clara Prodasky has two passions.  She loves teaching math to her students at Camden Middle School and she loves to run. Clara has run in full and half marathons, even shorter distances, but her favorite event is the Boston Marathon.

She's run the race 5 times, but the last one she will never forget.  Clara crossed the finish line just 4 minutes before the first of two explosion went off last year.

"And all of the sudden, there was like a boom, and the woman beside me goes, 'Is that a cannon?'" she recalled. "And then there was another boom. and we all just looked back, it's like it was in slow motion. And you just saw this cloud of smoke."

Clara was just two or three blocks away from the finish line.  Immediately her thoughts turned to her husband Rob, who had accompanied her to Boston for the race. And his thoughts were on her.  He called her.

Rob recalled saying, "Where are you, where are you?,Give me a land mark, I will come find you and we need to get out of here."

Clara added, "From the midst of that you just hear someone yell, 'Run!' And so, again, no one knows what's going on. I saw him. I grabbed him. I said. 'What is going on?' He said 'i have no idea.''

By the time Clara and Rob found out exactly what was happening, they were safely in their hotel room, making plans to cut their trip short and head home.  Returning home was easy, but for Clara going back to work was not.

"I was apprehensive about it because I didn't know how people would respond to me. I didn't kinda want to relive the whole thing again, every time people asked me questions or something like that, I was just honestly I was dreading it coming back," Clara said.

But she did go back, and she’s glad she did, with one of the most touching gestures coming from the students.

"Congratulations cards, notes, every single eighth grader made me a card, even the ones I don't teach. They were so happy I survived," Clara explained. "Said they loved me, it was nice."

"The whole staff and faculty and all the students here were very concerned," said Camden Middle School Principal Mark Durham. "We just wanted to make her feel special when she got back here on campus."

And they did.  Now Clara had a different problem: getting back to Boston.  Shem missed her  qualifying time this past Summer, which means she would miss the race this year. But the Boston Athletic Association allowed former runners to submit an essay explaining why they should be allowed to run.  Clara didn't hesitate to submit one and the association liked what it read and invited her to enter the April 21, 2014 race.

Next, Clara needed the entry fee, so her school helped her with that, not letting that fee stand in her way. In fact, students from 11 schools in Camden County donated and raised more than $600, more than enough to cover Clara's entry fee.  The additional money went to the One Boston Fund.

You might say all the students taught Clara something about caring.  And she hopes this whole ordeal teaches them to never give up.

"You gotta do it and I just want to teach and I just want to show my kids that if you're passionate about something and you believe in yourself, you can do it," said Clara.

Clara says there is no way she would miss this year's race because if she did, it would let the bad guys win.

By the way, the qualifying time for her age group is 3 hours, 45 minutes.  Clara plans to keep Channel 4 posted on how she does in the Boston Marathon coming up this Monday, April 21.

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