Boston bombings become personal for Racine classroom

RACINE (WITI) -- The fear and confusion that came after the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday spread to southeastern Wisconsin -- specifically, a seventh-grade classroom in Racine. Students at Gilmore Middle School knew their science teacher was running in the race.

There was relief on Tuesday for Joe Benvenga.

On Monday, April 15th, he was in a seventh-grade classroom at Gilmore Middle School, filling in for Michelle Zerzanek who was chasing her dream of running the Boston Marathon.

"She put everything she had into her teaching, then she would go home and run her 10, 15 miles in training," Bevenga said.

On Monday afternoon, Bevenga decided he would take some time to teach the students about the race in which their regular teacher was running.

"When I pulled the clips up, it ended up being not who won the race, but that the bomb just went off -- and the kids saw it on the projector and it got quiet right away," Bevenga said.

"I found out when we were walking down the hallway. I just heard a couple teachers say a bomb went off right after some people finished the race and I was thinking in my head 'I hope Miss Z is fine,'" seventh-grader Jared Perri said.

Benvenga says he quickly sent Zerzanek a text message, asking whether she was okay. After a long three minutes, she responded, saying "We are okay. Chaos here. Mass exodus. People crying."

"It was a relief. It was definitely a relief and we're happy she was safe, but we still had to explain some people weren't as lucky," Benvenga said.

What started as a scare ended up being a lesson no student or teacher could prepare for.

"To know that somebody you have everyday contact with is affected by this situation, I'm sure it was very tough for them to process at the time," Gilmore Middle School teacher Jeff Sturdevant said.

Zerzanek had finished the marathon about an hour before the bombs went off. She was far enough from the finish line that she didn't even hear the explosion. She found out when she saw terrified people running past her.

Zerzanek is expected to return from Boston later Tuesday evening.

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