Competitors and race organizers were crying as they fled the bloody chaos. There were at least two bombs and three deaths.
BOSTON – It was the first for a marathon: runners, just shy of meeting their goal of reaching the finish line, abruptly stopping in their tracks as the air rocked with the sounds of explosions.
“We saw the runners just stop running,” said Carla Berrios, who was watching the Boston Marathon on Monday with co-workers from a building downtown, overlooking the finish line. “The police and paramedics started running in the opposite direction.”
The death toll from the two explosions rose to three, according to the Boston Police Commissioner, Edward Davis. One of these included an 8-year-old boy. More than 150 injured have been reported so far. There was also a fire at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum but it is not clear if there is any connection to the other two explosions, according to police.
The one thing I was commenting about with a friend is that we don’t feel safe. It breaks my heart to see that this could happen.
- Javiera Lagunas
Berrios said she was watching the race with about 35 others in support of a co-worker who was running.
“All of a sudden, the building [shook] a little bit and the windows cracked,” said Berrios, who is from Puerto Rico and has lived in Boston for three years. “We heard one explosion after the other.”
Berrios said that police arrived about 45 minutes after the explosions and ordered everyone to evacuate the building. Outside, there were no cabs to be found and the buses and subway had been shut down. Berrios said it took her nearly an hour to walk home to Brookline, a neighborhood near Boston.
Adrian Budhu, Berrios’ co-worker, said he was “literally a minute from crossing the finish line,” when he saw the first explosion.
“The first one sounded like a cannon and the second one was clearly an explosion like you would hear on TV,” he said. “At first I thought it was a transformer. Last year one of the transformers blew out by the Sheraton Hotel, but then I saw the second one and things were flying.”
Budhu, who said this is his fifth time running the Boston Marathon, tried to call his co-workers from a spectator’s cell phone but couldn’t get through due to lack of cell phone service.
“The crowd was just shocked,” he said. “No one knew what was going on and everyone in the crowd assumed it was a bomb.”
Budhu, who is originally from Guyana in South America, said he was saddened and angered by the incident.
“Marathon Monday is a big deal in this city and it’s such an amazing event to see,” he said. “For this to happen and to see all the pictures and the blood, it's so shocking and surreal.”
Nearby at a downtown hotel, Javiera Lagunas was working her shift as a hostess in a restaurant when she said she noticed people running down the street. Guests started snickering and there was talk of a blown out transformer after the first explosion. Soon after, the guests were evacuated and then the staff banded together and left once the police arrived.
“I’ve always worked during the marathon,” she said. “It’s busy. Everyone who’s running stays there and families stay there, so we get a lot of runners for dinner.”
Lagunas, who is originally from Chile but has lived in Boston for 11 years and considers it home, said she was still in shock.
“The one thing I was commenting about with a friend is that we don’t feel safe,” she said. “It breaks my heart to see that this could happen.”
Officials say the bombings were an act of terrorism, though they are unsure whether it is the result of a local or international organization.
Lagunas said the incident does make her wonder who would do such a thing.
“I really hope it wasn’t intentional," Lagunas said. "But deep inside, at this point what can you think?”
Tanya Pérez-Brennan is a freelance writer based in Boston.