Runners describe Boston Marathon finish-line chaos
An injured person is helped on the sidewalk near the Boston Marathon finish line following an explosion in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. (AP Photo/MetroWest Daily News, Ken McGagh) MANDATORY CREDIT Purchase photo reprints »
BOSTON — Runners who had just finished their 26.2-mile ordeal, already on the verge of collapse, were stunned and shocked by the explosions that rocked the finish line Monday afternoon.
“I was just finished and collecting my medal when it went off,” said runner Mike McMahan of Maple Grove, Minn. “Then the next one went off 10 seconds later. I saw flames on that one. I didn’t see flames on the first one. My wife was at the 25 and a half mark when she was stopped. She had to borrow a cellphone to text me she was alright. This is my first Boston and my 22nd marathon. This was an investment, not a cheap adventure. I will remember this, but not for the reasons I want. I will remember this.”
Greg Meyer of Michigan, the 1983 Boston men’s champion, was running with his sons Danny and Jay.
“I grabbed my medal went to the VIP tent to get my clothes and boom,” Meyer said. “I told Danny who was struggling the last three miles. I said, ‘Thank God you kept running because the three of us would have been there right about then.’ We all ran the whole way together.
“This is so sad and I feel so bad for the people. This is an event that brings people together, not for this kind of stuff. We don’t need this. The bomb went off there and two blocks up. My family was right there at the finish line and it’s not just me, everybody’s family was there. What if they had put that under the damn bleachers.
“I was past. I was right in the (Copley) square picking up my bag when all of a sudden. You could hear the bomb and a plume of smoke from where we could see. Thank God the medical tent was right there. I saw the plume of smoke go up and we were safe. But you knew this isn’t good and it was right at the finish line. It was right there where everybody was at.
“I don’t understand this, I just don’t understand this and I feel so bad for all the people injured. I feel sorry for all the good people do so much to put on an event that is supposed share happiness with one another. This is supposed to bring people together and it shouldn’t be tearing people apart.”
A runner in his mid-30s who said he was an Army veteran from Maryland said, “I’ve lived through Afghanistan five times and Iraq twice. I can’t believe it happened here.”
Alicia Shambo, 51, of Hopkinton, Mass., was handing out Mylar blankets at the finish line when the explosion occurred.
Shambo, a former U.S. Navy medic, said she rushed to get people to safety.
“The extent of the injuries is just horrible,” Shambo told the Boston Herald outside Tufts Medical Center emergency room. “Extremities just dangling.”
Shambo said she aided a 20-something female who had shrapnel lodged in her lower leg.
“She is going to be OK,” said Shambo. “I can’t say that for everybody.”
Rachel Fox, a Herald reporter who was interviewing people at the finish line several hundred feet from the blasts, said, “I heard the bang. I thought it was a celebratory thing. Then I saw the smoke. All in one, the ground started shaking, and it was completely quiet for a couple of seconds. The first bang was followed by a second bang. My first thought was run . I knew something wasn’t right.
“People were screaming and crying. I saw people fall to the ground. I wasn’t sure if it was runners falling from exhaustion or injuries,” Fox said.
Chris McIntosh, publisher of the Boston Business Journal who was at the Lenox Hotel near the scene, said, “It’s chaos down here. Two bombs just went off at the finish line within five seconds of each other. There must be casualties. Now I’m seeing fire trucks and ambulances racing down Boylston Street toward the scene.”
Stunned and crying people could be seen walking away from the scene down Beacon Street.
Susan Markow was standing with a friend in front of the bar Whiskey’s.
“Everything was fine. Then all of a sudden, we just heard one explosion, huge. Not seconds later, another one. Everything stopped,” Markow said. She was waiting for her son Daniel to cross the finish line and was still looking for him when she spoke to the Herald.
Her daughter Lindsey was at the finish line, and sent a rushed text, “MOM call MS.”
Markow said she was “terrified. Awful. It’s not good, not good.”
She described a scene of panic but she said calm took over a minute later and people were orderly was they left the area.
At the Marathon finish line, City Council President Steve Murphy said he was “30 to 40 feet” from the two explosions.
“I heard an explosion and then another one 15 seconds later,” Murphy told the Herald. The councilor said he saw people injured and several people being taken out in ambulances.
“I saw a guy coming towards me with blood on his face” a shaken Murphy said.
Parker Wellington, 24, of Cambridge, Mass., was at the corner of Clarendon and Boylston with his family waiting for his sister Laura to cross the finish line when the explosions went off.
“One second it was just normal, then it sounded like a cannon going off,” he said. “There was a huge cloud of smoke down one side of the finish line. Then 10 or 15 seconds later, the same thing happened.”
Wellington said police swarmed the scene almost immediately and volunteers started screaming at spectators to clear the scene, fearing there would be more explosions.
“We made a beeline out of there,” he said, and the family began frantically searching for his sister. An hour later, she was able to get a phone call through to them and tell them she was safe on Huntington Avenue with a group of other runners who didn’t know where to go.
“They were going to try to cut back over towards Copley and we told them not to go anywhere near the finish line,” he said.
Wellington said he was scared when the explosions first went off, but became more terrified an hour later when he learned the explosions were caused by bombs.
“I’ve never been through anything like this in my life, and it’s something I never want to go through again,” he said.
Marlo Fogelman, who holds an annual Marathon viewing party in her marketing office on Boylston Street, said there were about 125 revelers in her office, which looks out onto the finish line, when the bombs went off.
“Everyone ran to the back of the office,” she said. “Everyone was saying, ‘What shall we do? Stay inside? Get out?’ There were kids in there, my puppy was in there.”
Fogelman said the two floors of offices filled up with smoke, alarms were blaring, and the windows were shattered. People began climbing down a rear fire escape to an alley to get out of the building.
“The medical responders were telling us, ‘Don’t go out front. Don’t look out the window,” she said. But after everyone got out safe, Fogelman said she was trying to close up and she saw the horrifying scene out front.”
“Boylston Street was covered in blood,” she said. “There were people in stretchers. There were body parts. . Honestly, everyone was having a great marathon day. It was great weather, some of the runners who had finished came into the office. Everything was great, then all of a sudden, this happened. . “