BOSTON - As a Christmas gift, Jennifer and Kevin Morse of Jamestown had given their daughter, Caitlin Milford, money to purchase an airline ticket that would make it possible for the latter to travel from her Alabama home to Boston to run in one of the world's most prestigious marathons.
For the record, Caitlin, a 2006 Southwestern Central School graduate, completed the 26.2-mile race in 3 hours, 52 minutes, 17 seconds on Monday. But what should have been an athletic achievement of a lifetime was forever marred by the horrific events that occurred 15 minutes after she stopped running.
For it was at 2:50 p.m. on a beautiful spring day that two bombs were detonated seconds apart near the finish line, resulting in three deaths and more than 170 injuries. President Barack Obama has branded the attack an act of terrorism.
Caitlin Milford has been an avid runner, competing in five marathons.
Fortunately for Jennifer, who was volunteering at 2nd Chances Thrift Store on Fairmount Avenue in Jamestown at the time, she had no knowledge of the unimaginable events.
So when Caitlin called to say she had completed the race and, yes, ''everything was OK,'' Jennifer's response was: ''What's OK?
''I'm so thankful I didn't see the news reports. I would have been just frantic.''
Kevin, who was in Boston to support his stepdaughter, was also fine, which was welcome news, considering he had planned to stay camped at the finish line all day, but changed his mind and decided to go the Red Sox game at nearby Fenway Park instead. He returned in time to take photographs of Caitlin about a half-mile before the finish line.
Less than 20 minutes later, the explosions rocked Boylston Street and the surrounding area.
''I'm just so relieved,'' Jennifer said. ''Caitlin had passed that area 10-12 minutes before they went off and Kevin almost sat across the street (from the blasts). I'm just so thankful.''
Jennifer said that she has contacted the FBI and upon Kevin's return home - he's expected today - they would be happy to turn over the images he snapped.
''I'll have pictures of that time frame,'' she said.
Caitlin, who lives in Elkmont, Ala., and is a nursing school student, was competing in her fifth marathon, a sport that she came to know from her father, the late Dr. Mark Milford, a distance runner and cyclist, who was killed in a car accident in 1999.
''He was on his way to doing a 'century ride' in California and had a single-vehicle accident,'' Jennifer said.
Years later, Caitlin, buoyed by her father's memory and her stepfather's support on-site, was planning to celebrate the milestone run on Monday. That all changed in minutes.
''She was very distraught,'' Jennifer said. ''She was talking about the bombs going off and the people being hurt. ... On top of her father's death, she doesn't know how close Kevin was sitting (earlier in the day) to the explosion. We chose not to tell her. This, following the trauma of losing a loved one, can be tough. ... But I'm thankful that they're both OK. Caitlin is home and Kevin will be shortly.''