May 25, 2018
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Palmyra native living in Boston helps produce ESPN’s marathon bombing coverage

By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

BOSTON — Andrea Pelkey had returned to her Boston apartment after a workout Monday afternoon and was on the phone with her younger sister, Laura, who lives in Portland.

Suddenly, she heard a loud noise and ran over to the bay windows overlooking an alley.

“I heard the noise and saw the smoke from the second [explosion],” the Palmyra native recounted Friday, four days after two bombs went off near the finish line during the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 180.

Without knowing what had occurred only three blocks away, Pelkey sensed it it was serious. As a producer of NASCAR broadcasts for ESPN, she was familiar with loud noises, but she realized these weren’t celebratory sounds.

“I said, ‘Something’s not right. Call Jodi [their older sister] and tell her I’m OK,’” she told Laura. “I’ve got to call mom and dad [Luanne and Solomon Pelkey].”

Andrea Pelkey, a producer in ESPN’s Boston bureau, watched as a wave of several hundred people ran down the street toward Copley Place.

“The look on the people’s faces was just horrifying,” said Pelkey, who turned 33 on Tuesday.

“One woman, I remember her face from my apartment, she had a stroller and she was running and she had a baby in one of the bundle strap things that you have on your chest,” Pelkey continued. “Her face, her fear, she was just trying to get them out of there.”

As she processed the scene, Pelkey grabbed her video camera and arranged to meet up with ESPN’s satellite truck, which she suggested be stationed at the corner of Boylston and Exeter streets. She later worked behind the scenes with Steve Levy, who drove up from Bristol, Conn., to report from the scene.

“Because it happened at a sporting event, we wanted to make sure we were covering the mood of the city; what’s the feeling, what’s the tone?” said Pelkey, who explained ESPN contacted members of the Bruins and Celtics coach Doc Rivers for reaction.

Tuesday morning, she went out to walk around her neighborhood and witnessed an eerie site at a restaurant called Stephanie’s that is close to the marathon finish line.

“The tables [outside] were still set. There were napkins, half-full beers, a serving of macaroni and cheese. I won’t forget that visual, either.”

For the last four days, Pelkey has been helping coordinate ESPN’s Boston coverage, including a segment for Sports Center that is scheduled to air Saturday at 10 a.m. A panel including Boston writers Dan Shaughnessy, Jackie McMullan, Mike Barnicle and Leigh Montville met at Fenway Park to discuss the ramifications of Monday’s bombings on their city.

“My whole week has been [centered] around this [marathon bombing coverage],” said Pelkey, who has been monitoring two news broadcasts to keep in touch with the latest developments.

Wednesday night, she was at the Bruins game and witnessed the mass singing of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

“It was really one of those moments where you sit there and it takes your breath away,” she said.

On Friday, Boston and surrounding cities were on lockdown. There was no public transportation, many businesses remained closed and people were instructed by authorities to stay home. Pelkey had been scheduled to work on ESPN’s broadcast of the Red Sox and Kansas City at Fenway Park, but the game was postponed because of the manhunt for the remaining bombing suspect.

She said the mood of people in the city has fluctuated during the week.

“I feel like there was a sense of fear the first day and then, all of a sudden, it turned into anger,” Pelkey explained. “That anger also turned into support for each other.”

Pelkey, a graduate of Nokomis High School in Newport, has spent much of the last six years crisscrossing the country for her job. However, she lived in Boston as a graduate student at Emerson College and now lives and works in the city.

One of the things Pelkey misses most about Maine is the friendliness and connection with people. She said the bombing has changed the interpersonal dynamic in Boston.

“At home in Maine, you see a stranger and you make eye contact. You don’t know each other, but you acknowledge each other; you smile, whatever,” she said. “That doesn’t happen in the city, it doesn’t, but it has the last couple days.”

Pelkey conceded the hectic pace of her work has helped keep her mind off the bombings. She appreciates the support she has received from her ESPN colleagues.

“This is unprecedented. This has never happened with us,” she said of the Boston lockdown.

“It’s been really good to have work to focus on.”

Pelkey is 1998 graduate of Nokomis, where she played basketball and field hockey. She went on to earn an undergraduate degree from Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., where she played field hockey.

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