Coast runners turn out to support Boston Marathon victims

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - South Mississippi and Boston are separated by many miles, but in a symbolic sense, we are all neighbors now.

An estimated 320 people were at a 5K "Prayer Run" Tuesday evening in Gulfport. It was organized by city councilman R Lee Flowers and the owners and managers of the Run-N-Tri store on Cowan Lorraine Road.

The purpose of the run was to let the people of Boston know we are with them in spirit.

Mayor George Schloegel put it best when he told the crowd that what happened at the Boston Marathon is not what America is all about. The mayor added, the show of solidarity at this event does symbolize what our great country stands for.

As the race began, everybody ran under a massive American flag, unfurled by the Gulfport Fire Department. Michael Raff was one of those who ran. This was personal to the Keesler civil servant.

"The terrorist, their intention was probably to stop runners. We are going to show the world you will not stop us from running," Raff said with a voice choked with emotion.

Raff certainly understands the consequences of violence and the horrible aftermath. He was in Oklahoma City, when the federal building was bombed there 18 years ago.

"I lost four friends at the bombing," Raff said. "I was on a morgue team and took out two bodies."

Just minutes after the race began, there was one man all alone, well ahead of everyone else. His name is Joshua Ord. Just one day earlier, he was among the 27,000 participating in the Boston Marathon.

After the race, Ord told us he had to be here for this race.

"I knew it was just the right thing for me to do," he said.

When we asked if this still seems surreal, he said, "It does. I go from disbelief, to shock, to a feeling of helplessness."

When the bombing began, Joshua was already back in his hotel room. After hearing the two bomb blasts, he could not believe what he was seeing.

"We went to our window and you could already see the pillars of smoke, just the chaos on the ground."

Now that he has had a little time to reflect on what he saw Monday, Ord said he is left to wonder why someone would be moved commit such an horrific act of violence. The Missouri native, now stationed at Keesler, said his thoughts and prayers are with those injured and killed as well as their families.

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