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Western Pennsylvanians say Boston bombing changed their perspectives

| Sunday, April 21, 2013, 12:20 a.m.
The Formica family of Butler, mom Amy, Mike, 10, Ryan, 8, and dad Mike Friday, April 19, 2013. Amy ran the Boston marathon and Mike and the boys watched. Father and son were parking their car about 3 blocks away when the blast went off. Amy, thankfully, was not close to either blast.
Jeremiah J. Wagner
A photo of Ligonier resident Jeremiah J. Wagner with his daughter Lacey, 4, and Dylan, 7, was taken after Jeremiah finished the Boston Marathon.
Mike Formica of Butler was with his sons Mike, 10, and Ryan, 8, watching his wife Amy run the Boston marathan. Mike and the boys were parking the car about three blocks away and were not affected by the blasts. His wife Amy was also lucky and not near either blast.
Kaitlyn Kacsuta, 25, of Bon Air — Third-year law student at Duquesne University, who ran in the Boston Marathon, April 15, 2013.

Three Western Pennsylvanians said the Boston Marathon bombing changed their perspectives on life, family and the power of the running community.

None was hurt, but each said mere minutes separated them and, in some cases, cheering family members from serious injury — or worse. They reflected on their collective brush with terrorism near the race's finish line in interviews Tuesday and Friday in Boston and Pittsburgh.

• Kaitlyn Kacsuta, 25, of Bon Air — Third-year law student at Duquesne University

“I had a rough time sleeping while I was there” after the attack, Kacsuta said. “I woke up at 3 in the morning and thought, ‘... There has to be a way I can show my support or do something for Boston.' ”

For Kacsuta, an ultra-marathon competitor, the answer is more running.

She plans to run 180 miles in 26 days to raise awareness and money for The One Fund Boston Inc. (, a nonprofit that Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino created to help “those families most affected by the tragic events.” News reports said the fund collected more than $10 million as of Friday.

With help from law school friends Bridget and Chris Daley, Kacsuta created a YouTube video ( inviting runners to join her during her runs. The first will start at 8 a.m. Sunday in the parking lot near 22nd Street on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in the South Side. Similar runs are being planned via Facebook in other cities, where people plan to wear yellow and blue, the colors of the Boston Marathon, to honor those who were wounded or killed.

Kacsuta is planning to run 178 miles to commemorate the victims of the bombing, plus two more to honor the Massachusetts Institute of Technology officer whom, police said, the bombing suspect killed on Thursday and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officer who was wounded in a pursuit.

It's the first charity event Kacsuta has organized.

“We're going to try to get as many people from Pittsburgh as we can to donate to One Fund,” Kacsuta said.

She said the attack refocused her on priorities beyond school work and finding a job. She's not certain how, but she said she plans to use her law degree to help people.

• Mike Formica, 45, of Saxonburg — Father of two; accompanied his wife Amy, a Boston Marathon runner

Formica on Tuesday initially questioned whether he would take his family to next year's Boston Marathon, which his wife wants to run again and finish. That hesitation has turned to resolve: He's willing to return.

His wife was a half-mile from the finish line when the bombs went off, and she was blocked from finishing the race. He was in a car nearby with their sons — ages 8 and 10 — heading toward the finish to meet her. It took them two hours to find each other in the chaos. Formica said Amy originally was slated to run a 50-mile ultra-marathon at Moraine State Park on April 13, but she canceled and got a last-minute entry into the Boston Marathon because she wanted to run it before turning 40 next month.

The bombing will change his life, Formica said, recalling that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks prompted the couple to decide to have children after a decade of marriage.

“Life's really short. Bad things can happen. And it really put a perspective on where we were spending our time and what's important and, within a year, our son was born,” Formica said.

Similar introspective thoughts are going through his mind now.

“I'm sure there will be an impact. I don't know what it will be, yet, but we've been trying to spend some more quiet time at home,” he said. “It's a reminder that it's real easy to be always hustling around and doing lots of other things.”

• Jeremiah Wagner, 35, of Ligonier — Husband, father of two; senior program director of the Ligonier Valley YMCA

Wagner said he was barely able to finish the Boston Marathon. He sought treatment for dehydration and severe muscle cramps before rejoining his wife, Jacquelyn, and their two children, ages 4 and 7, about the time the bombs went off nearby. If Wagner hadn't needed treatment, the family likely would have been safely back at their hotel when the bombs exploded, he said.

“Everything happens for a reason. God has put us in a certain place at a certain time,” Wagner said.

He counts his family lucky, not only because no one was harmed, but because his small children avoided the psychologically scarring carnage that some youngsters attending the race saw.

He said his experience at the marathon could evolve into a renewed spiritual commitment.

“We struggle to go to church every week, but I think we'll go to church and try to be more thankful for everything,” said Wagner, who vacationed with his family in New York City after the race. “I don't know what else we would do differently other than that. We're just thankful that we were where we were.”

Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or

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