Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Marathon Bystander Gives Firsthand Account

Here’s an email sent me Tuesday afternoon after the Boston Marathon on Monday. I'm preserving the privacy of the participants at their request and edited very little. True story.

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“Thank you all for your concern.
 
We’re staying briefly, on our way to Spain from Utah, in a furnished apartment just off Boylston Street, behind the Lord and Taylor Department Store a block before the finish line of the Marathon.  This morning (Tuesday) the whole area is cordoned off, but happily we've just got back into the apartment.  We can’t see what’s going on out on Boylston Street because our windows face the other direction.  There’s yellow crime scene tape stopping traffic – foot and car – all around the area, and lots of police.  Our car is in a lot under the building and we don’t dare take it out anywhere, because we won’t be able to get it back here if we do.

This is DK’s third Boston Marathon, and he's done others to qualify for it.  I did one marathon some years back but find they take far too much time to train for.  I do distances between 5K and half marathons, but walk every step - fast.  I did 31 races last year, and three in February when we were in Florida.
Yesterday morning I went downstairs to see the wheelchair winner whiz by.  I was standing behind the crowds – three deep – right across the street from where I presume the second explosion occurred.  The atmosphere was jovial and encouraging, just what you’d expect.  A while later I met up with DK’s mother and two nieces (and two babies) and we watched the elite runners fly by on Hereford Street. We went back to the apartment for lunch and then headed out to see DK.  We avoided Boylston Street, even though we were right there at the finish, because there were so many people there.  We could never have got to the front of the crowd to have a clear view of him, so we went down to Commonwealth Avenue and got a good spot there, about two-thirds of a mile from the end.
DK had left for Hopkinton on a bus from the Common at 7 a.m., along with thousands of other runners.  He had started the race about 10:45, and was running a bit slower than he wanted.  Yet he looked good when he passed us. He ran up to us, gave me a quick kiss, and headed down the underpass to turn onto Hereford Street.  The nieces headed home, walking across the Mass. Avenue bridge to Cambridge (and eventually all the way to Harvard Square!). 

TK (DK’s mom) and I headed back to the apartment where we’d arranged to meet him.  We hadn’t walked a block when we heard a huge kaboom.  We looked at each other, confused.  Not thunder, since the weather was okay.  A cannon in honor of the Patriots Day holiday Massachusetts was celebrating?  Weird.  Then another.  Even more confusing.   I looked back at the underpass and was astounded to see it empty, meaning the runners had been stopped:  OMG, something terrible’s going on. 
Very quickly there were streams of policemen on bikes riding headlong toward the finish.  Police motorcycles and cars came screaming by.  Somebody mentioned explosions at the finish.  I calculated that DK couldn’t have had time to get to the end, and held onto that thought.  He had to be okay.
TK and I worked our way back toward the apartment through pandemonium.  People streaming away from the race and we were going toward it.  Policemen gesturing wildly, cars coming and going, people on phones, everyone looking around wildly.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking of 9/11.  We were turned away from going through the Prudential Center and when we walked all the way around the outside of it, we were turned away from the little road leading to our apartment.
It was getting cold and we had little information on what was happening, and we had no idea where DK was.  I was worried about him getting cold.  That happens so quickly when you stop running and it was getting to be late afternoon on a cool day. 

I tried to text DK and check the news on my phone but was worried about using up the juice too fast.  So many people called and texted and emailed but the phone lines were jammed and I wanted to conserve the charge so had to make quick updates. 
Meanwhile, DK was running up Hereford Street when the first explosion happened.  He'd turned onto Boylston Street and could see the finish line a few blocks ahead when the smoke from the second explosion burst out.  Suddenly a policeman stood in front of him blocking his way, stopping him from going further and telling him to leave the area.  He made his way to the packet pickup area and was lucky to get his bag (so he had some clothes to put on).  

After that, DK headed to a place as close to the apartment as he could get. Thank goodness he was a few minutes slower than he planned.  And thank goodness we didn’t find a spot to wait for him on the sidewalk outside the apartment.  

We searched for DK through all the thousands of people in that big area. TK happened to gaze in a certain direction when her son appeared, ten feet away. And to our great relief, thank goodness we finally found one other.

We wandered idly along a nearby street as the police turned everyone away from the area.  A lovely couple offered DK a cup of water.  A hotel lobby allowed us in and we spent a little time regrouping, grateful for the warmth. But it didn’t have a television so we were getting information piecemeal.  The T (subway) had been shut down as well as the Mass Ave. bridge, and it was evident we weren’t getting back into the apartment any time soon. 
We had a call from a friend, and the three of us including TK spent the night at their house in Milton.  MP and WP are truly wonderful people who welcomed us very graciously.  We went from feeling like refugees to royalty immediately.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.
We both had many people try to contact us, wishing us well.  It was really wonderful to hear from so many friends, but we simply couldn’t respond to everyone.  Thank you for understanding. 
And heartfelt wishes to those who were terribly injured, including friends of MP and WP.  Presumably we'll be leaving for Spain on Saturday night.  We have even more reasons to light a few candles over there now."
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And here's another of FK's later emails to me: 

It was a very intense experience...Yesterday (Monday) was remarkable.  Such confusion for the ordinary person, but the police swung into action immediately and within a few minutes there were so many ambulances they stretched over blocks....We had to show our ID and keys to get back into our apartment today (Tuesday).  Thank goodness the area right here is still restricted and the police/security presence is very heavy.  Thank goodness our flight to Spain wasn't scheduled today...It was an experience that reminded us of the many things we're grateful for.”

Thanks go out to the writer, my sister. Have to thank her for allowing me to share it. Amazes me that family members of mine survived the attacks. Isn't it an amazing description?

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