Man Witnesses Both Boston, Texas Disasters

Man Witnesses Both Boston, Texas Disasters

By AMY FORLITI
Associated Press
People keep asking Joe Berti if he feels unlucky.

A bomb exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon seconds after Berti finished the race. Two days later, he was in his home state of Texas when he saw a fertilizer plant explode near Waco.

But Berti, as it turns out, is far from unlucky. Instead, he feels fortunate. He left both tragedies unscathed, while members of his running group and his wife _ who was closer to the Boston explosion than he was _ were also unhurt.

The bombings in Boston, which happened about 10 seconds apart at the finish line of Monday’s marathon, killed three people and left more than 180 wounded. In West, Texas, which is near Waco, a fertilizer plant exploded on Wednesday, killing at least five people, injuring more than 160, and leveling homes, apartments and a school.

Berti’s road to the Boston marathon started just a couple months ago, when he decided to run with Champions4Children, a charity that helps kids with rare or undiagnosed disorders and their families. He was one of eight Austin-area runners who ran the marathon with that group. Each ran for a sick child or “training partner,” who tracked his or her runner’s marathon progress from home.

During the last four miles, the 43-year-old Berti, who wore bib number 25472, felt his body shutting down, and his pace slowed. But he was running for his partner Drew, and he vowed to finish.

At that point, he said, he was so exhausted he couldn’t run anymore. He worried about getting caught in a stampede. He was concerned about members of his running group who were behind him. He also thought about his wife, whom he was unable to reach and was probably wondering where he was. He told himself she was fine, because she was supposed to be at a restaurant.

As it turns out, Amy Berti and a friend were just a few yards from the first explosion. She had just taken a picture of Joe, and was heading to the finish line to find him when the bomb went off. She and her friend were both hit by shrapnel. Amy was uninjured, her friend was bruised.

But a woman right next to Amy had her leg torn off from the knee down, and lost all the fingers in her left hand. Amy Berti went to get help, and once that woman was being cared for, Amy’s frantic search for her husband began.

His cellphone battery died. He wasn’t on the bus. He wasn’t in the medical tents.

After about an hour, the couple reunited at their hotel, both of them OK. They left Boston Tuesday morning and returned to Austin, with every hope of getting back to life as normal with their two girls, ages 8 and 11.

Joe Berti went back to work. On Wednesday, he had a daylong meeting in Dallas, followed by a museum tour. He was heading home on Interstate 35 and nearing Waco Wednesday night when he saw black smoke up ahead to his left. As he drove closer, he saw _ and felt _ his second explosion in two days.

He didn’t know what he had just witnessed _ but he pulled over and took a picture.

As black smoke billowed over the highway in front of him, Berti held his breath and drove through it. After a few attempts, he was able to reach his wife _ sparing her another round of worry.

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Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/amyforliti

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Associated Press photo editor Karly Domb Sadof and Susan James at The Associated Press News and Information Research Center contributed to this report.

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