ASHLAND, Ky. (KT) – It’s safe to say, Amy Compston will never forget April 15, 2013.
It’s a clear and defining marker in her life. There’s the Amy Compston before that date and the Amy Compston after that date.
The same could be said for her family members, 22 of them in all.
It’s the same that could be said for thousands of runners just like her who participated in the 2013 Boston Marathon that was disrupted by a terrorist attack when two consecutive explosions on the sidewalk bloodied the finish line, killing three spectators and injuring 264 others with at least 14 requiring amputations.
The race was halted, preventing many participants from finishing. More than 5,000 runners were still on the course and couldn’t complete the race. They were given medals and an entry into the 2014 Boston Marathon.
But that wasn’t Compston, who crossed the finish line about 30 minutes before the explosions detonated and sent Boston into a terrorized frenzy.
It was 2:50 EDT, race clock time of 4:09.43 – almost two hours after the winners had completed the race – that the explosions rocked the world. Mayhem and confusion ensued not just hours, but days, after the race.
Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, but the events of that day remain crystal clear for Compston, who these days is better known as the Amy in the Amy For Africa mission that works and builds schools in Uganda. The life-changing event of becoming a missionary who runs for God didn’t happen until after the Boston Marathon although it definitely had an impact. She started Amy For Africa about a month after the race.
The Kentucky Baptist, who lives in Ashland, returned to Boston to run in 2014, 2015 and 2016. She’s also competed in the Chicago Marathon and New York City Marathon and is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner as well.
But the 2013 Boston Marathon was her first marathon on the big running stage. Her preparation was intense, her goals secured and her anxiousness overwhelming as the day approached. Even on race day, while prepared, her nervousness was obvious. She paced and she prayed.
Her husband, Chris, dropped her off early on the chilly morning of April 15, 2013 so she could take a bus ride to the race starting point and he then staked out a place near the finish line so he could watch his wife fulfill a runner's dream. Twenty-one other family members, 11 of them under 10 years old, had all come to celebrate in her completing the Boston Marathon, would later join him in the jam-packed finish line area.
“It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining brightly. Perfect running weather,” Amy remembered. “As I waited in the ‘runners’ village’ for the start of the race, an old lady approached me and asked if she could pray for me. She prayed only for my safety. I didn't think much of it at the moment, except to think, ‘Wow that was sweet!’ But now, looking back, I see how that was the presence of God on that day.
“I have run several marathons and never has that happened, but on April 15, 2013, the Lord sent a sweet lady to pray a prayer of protection over me because He knew I was headed into enemy territory.”
Compston finished the race to family members cheering and taking pictures. She and her husband met in an area where runners go after the race, called their family and arranged to meet them at a subway station, instead of the spot where they had been most of the day. It turned out to be a potentially life-saving decision.
A short time later, Compston’s family heard the explosions near the finish line where they had been standing. Compston and her husband were waiting for their family at the station when a passerby told them about the bombing.
“The fear and disbelief that rocked Boston that day was intense,” Compston said. “No one knew where the next bomb was or if there was one. Cell phone lines were shut off, people were separated from their families. It was terrifying. But, in the midst of it all, God was reigning.”
Her first concern was to make sure her family was OK. Dialing her cell phone seconds before the lines went dead, she learned all of them were safe.
“When we saw on TV where the bombs went off, we were like, ‘… That’s exactly where we were at,'” Compston said. “God did protect us.”
The family members stood between the two bombs all day, leaving two minutes before they exploded when Amy’s brother, Andy Wesolowski, directed the family down an alley. They heard the bombs but were uninjured. She has been back to the scene several times and gets emotional each and every time.
The attacks of April 15, 2013, touched off a manhunt that mesmerized the world. Boston ordered its people to shelter in place. Red Sox and Bruins games were canceled as police in tactical gear and armored vehicles fanned out across the city. Five days later, one bomber was dead, another was in custody, and locals had united around a social media hashtag that gave voice to their grit and resilience: #BostonStrong.
“The evil Satan meant for that day has resulted in such good,” Compston said. “Many non-profits have spurred from that day that help people all over the world. I know in my life God used that day to change my entire course of direction in my life. He has sent me around the world to tell my testimony including the Boston bombing story. What Satan means for evil, God uses for good. His plan always prevails and He has used those bombs to change my life, my family's life and I know many lives around the world.”