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Saved by seconds: Teacher, husband safe from bombings

Pike County Primary School teacher Deborah Butler was never happier to return to her classroom than she was after returning from the Boston Marathon where her husband finished the race just seconds before the first bomb detonated. She has taught at the primary school for several years with more than 25 years experience as a teacher. ’I was so excited to be back to my classroom and my kindergarten kids. I was just so thankful to be able to be back with my students,’ she said. ‘We believe the Lord directs our steps and we want to honor him in our daily walk with him. There’s no doubt in my mind he directed my steps away from the finish line at precisely the right time.’ Deborah was waiting for her husband to cross the finish line when she started feeling uncomfortable because of the crowds around her. She decided to walk away from the crowd. ’I was standing right where the bombing happened but I got a little claustrophobic so I moved away and walked down the block,’ she said. ‘My son wanted me to take a picture of him at the finish line because my husband is 61 and had said this was going to be his last marathon. He came in a few seconds before the bomb exploded. He looked back and all he could see was smoke and debris flying everywhere. He said he saw a man run in front of him with his head split open and blood pouring everywhere.’ Terry Butler said he had leg cramps that slowed him down at the end of the race and he was barely able to walk after crossing the finish line. He said he heard what sounded like a cannon and then people screaming. ’I looked on trying to comprehend what had happened. A few seconds later, I heard a second explosion and saw another cloud of smoke,’ he said. ‘A race official approached me and said, ‘˜run.’ I hadn’t been able to move since the first explosion but somehow my legs began to move and I ran about 100 yards.’ Deborah was around the block and she heard the explosions but did not know what it was. She said cell service went down immediately after the blast and her husband borrowed four people’s phones to call her before he was able to reach their son Timothy in California. She was waiting in the family area where they had agreed to meet after the race if she wasn’t at the finish line. ’I got a call from my son and he said his dad had called and said, ‘˜I don’t know where your mama is. She was probably at the finish line where the bombing was.’ He was really upset,’ she said. ‘I was very thankful when I saw him. I was talking to my son when I saw him running toward me and we ran to each other and embraced. It was just a very sad, sad, sad experience.’ Terry Butler was the pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Pike County for 17 years. His wife said he always ‘runs with purpose’ and picks a verse that he keeps in his mind during the 26-mile marathons. ’He’s a Christian man and he keeps a verse of scripture in his mind,’ said Deborah. The verse Terry selected on the plane trip to help him get through the Boston Marathon was Psalms 119:133. It says, ‘Keep steady my steps according to your promise and let no iniquity get dominion over me.’ The Butlers feel like their steps were directed by God to keep them both safe from the explosions. Terry was able to work through the painful leg cramps ‘“ which started at mile 15 ‘“ to cross the finish line right before the explosion. Deborah felt like she should walk away from the finish line, not knowing that decision could have saved her life. ’As soon as I heard about the explosions and I saw him, I said, ‘˜Thank you Lord,’ because I know the Lord had taken care of them,’ said Deborah. ‘We had said we weren’t going back to the Boston Marathon but now since this has happened, he’s determined to run it again.’ Terry had to catch a bus around 6:30 a.m. the day of the race to be taken to the starting line. On the subway on her way to the marathon, Deborah asked three Boston University students for directions to the finish line. Since they were also going to watch the race, they all walked together to the finish line. They were going there to meet other Boston University students. ’I followed them up to the finish line and then after a little while, I left,’ said Deborah. ‘I thought I saw one of the girls on a stretcher on TV that night. It looked just like her. I know a girl from Boston University was one of the people who were killed but it wasn’t one of the girls I walked with. It could have been one of the girls they were meeting there.’ Terry said he knows God led him to recite Psalm 119 as he ran. He hopes to qualify to run the Boston Marathon again next year. ’I had just witnessed terrible iniquity but God didn’t allow it to get dominion over me,’ he said. ‘Three people had been killed. Others had lost their limbs. Some were scarred for the rest of their lives. We thank God for his protection and pray for those whose lives have been scarred by this senseless and sinful act.’ Three people lost their lives during the bombings, including 8-year old Martin Richard, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell and 23-year-old Boston University graduate student Lu Lingzi. Around 140 people were injured – some as young as 2 years old, with 17 people in critical condition and some losing limbs as a result of the bombings.

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