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Sneed: Paralympic marathoner pushes forward in face of ‘evil’

BOSTON MA - APRIL 15:  TatyanMcFadden United States reacts as she crosses finish line wwomen's wheelchair divisi117th BostMarathApril 15

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 15: Tatyana McFadden of the United States reacts as she crosses the finish line to win the women's wheelchair division of the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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Updated: May 18, 2013 6:48AM



The marathon nightmare. . .

After two shrapnel-spreading bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, hundreds of people selflessly rushed to help the wounded athletes and their families.

But not everyone at the scene was noble.

Deborah McFadden ran into one guy who should be ashamed of himself.

“The trucker I hailed who extorted $400 from us — all the cash I had — to transport 18 [handicapped] kids out of danger and to the airport,” said McFadden, mother of University of Illinois Paralympic team senior Tatyana McFadden , 24, who had just won the Boston Marathon’s wheelchair race shortly before the bombs exploded.

“It was so surreal. . . the screaming and chaos and so much blood,” McFadden told Sneed. “What was beautiful and wonderful suddenly turned into mayhem just like that.

“But I heard Tatyana say we can’t let an act of terrorism stop us from enjoying the freedom we have in America. Each [Paralympic] athlete had experienced a tragedy — whether it was at birth or an accident — and they had figured how to turn it around and live life extraordinarily well.”

It’s tragically ironic that many of those who had already lost the use of a limb were safely across the finish line when the bombs went off, but many of those running during the explosion won’t be able to run again.

“We were only a block away from the finish line when the bombs exploded,” said McFadden, whose daughter is a gold and silver U.S. Paralympic winner who was born with spina bifida and adopted from a Russian orphanage when she was 6 years old.

“She had just finished being interviewed by the media when the bombs went off,” Tatyana’s mother told Sneed.

“We were in the Fairmont Hotel when we heard the explosions,” she said. “Tatyana’s race had ended a few hours beforehand and she had already gone through mandatory drug testing and receiving her medal when all hell broke loose.

“The FBI and the National Guard, who were carrying machine guns, came in and urged us to get out of the hotel and to safety because it was not known if more bombs were going to go off. People were panicking. There were no cabs available. All our cell phones were shut down.

“So we moved quickly to round each other up and I flagged down this trucker who wanted to know how much we could pay him to take us to the airport. I offered him $400 — it’s all the cash I had. So we all piled in on top of each other. . . the truck was big enough to haul all 18 wheelchairs and our luggage.”

Tatyana, who is paralyzed from the waist down, was heading to London Tuesday night to participate in the London Marathon on Sunday.

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and abandoned by her birth mother, Tatyana was spotted by McFadden while working for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services overseas.

“It was love at first sight,” said McFadden. “We looked into each other’s eyes. I had never even thought of adopting a child. . . let alone a child with serious medical problems. It hadn’t occurred to me. She was a sick little girl with legs that were bundled up behind her. She couldn’t get the medical help she needed there. She pulled herself across the floor using her arms.”

McFadden, who lives with her three daughters in Clarksville, Md., said it took a year and a half to complete the adoption process.

After successful medical treatment, Tatyana took up sports: Learning to jump rope with her hands in addition to swimming, gymnastics, basketball and ice hockey — and ultimately gaining international acclaim for track.

“You just don’t expect anything like this to happen,” said McFadden. “The joy of Tatyana winning the marathon all of a sudden taken away by something so tragic.”

Tatyana’s goal is now to win the Boston, London, Chicago and New York marathons this year. It’s a goal that hasn’t changed since the bombings.

Sneedlings. . .

Wednesday’s birthdays: Liz Phair, 46; Victoria Beckham, 39, and Jennifer Garner, 41.



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