NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Boston area native Alison L’Heureux, who now lives on the Upper West Side, had reached Mile 26 and was eager to see her mom and dad at the finish line of last year’s Boston Marathon when the first pressure-cooker bomb exploded.

“I was on the phone with my parents when the bombs went off, and I was telling them, ‘I’m coming’ and, click, the phone went out,” she told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

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And then fear set in.

“My initial thought was, how do I find my parents and how do we get out of here?” L’Heureux said.

L’Heureux has been trying to make sense of the tragedy ever since.

“Why them? Why not me?” she said, referring to the three people killed and the others who were gravely injured. “These people’s lives are changed forever. How do they move forward?”

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The finish line of the marathon was already bustling with activity on Sunday as runner counted down to the start of the race at the marathon expo, CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported.

“Looking forward to really putting all of last year and getting back to that feeling of what Boston Marathon is, the greatest marathon in the world and a celebration of people helping other people and people going out and doing their best,” Larry Grogin said.

The first Boston Marathon since the bombings will be run Monday. Thirty-six thousand runners are set to compete — 9,000 more than last year.

This year’s marathon will involve 3,500 hundred police officers who will be patrolling the course. Non of the runners or any of the estimated 1,000,000 spectators will be allowed to carry backpacks or use strollers during the event.

L’Heureux is among the runners with ties to the Tri-State area who believe they have unfinished business in Boston.

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“I definitely am very much looking forward to go back and finish what I started last year, and also be a part of the day that I think is going to be a really big celebration of resilience for Boston and the country,” Renee Pompei, of Manhattan, told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones.

Mona Jha, of Montclair, N.J., described to Jones how the first blast went off just as the finish line came into focus for her.

“Just like a big ball of fire,” she said.

And after the second blast, there was chaos.

“There were people running everywhere,” she said. “There were sirens everywhere. Anyhow, I was in a daze for a long time trying to figure my way back to the hotel.”

Jha, too, is returning to run in this year’s marathon.

Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of the New York Road Runners, which hosts the New York City Marathon, told Diamond the bombings greatly impacted the entire running community.

“Those hurt and those lost, they will always run in our hearts,” she said. “And our races will be different. They will be different because there was an innocence that’s lost.”

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said that heightened security at the event was not meant to take away from the feeling of the event.

“I will say that we’ve tried to strike a balance between enhanced security and preserving the family feel,” he said, “There’ll be considerably more police presence. There are tactical units, strategically placed at different points along the route. There are a number of undercover people and assets that will be deployed.”

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