There were about 2,000 California competitors at the Boston Marathon, with hundreds from the Bay Area. Many of them witnessed Monday’s explosions.
Scott Dunlap of Woodside had finished the race and was in a pub near the finish line:
“There was a loud boom, then a second one, and then thousands of people running as fast as possible through a barricaded area. The explosion shook the windows of the pub I was in, but that was nothing compared to watching thousands flee. Then shock, crying, and people coming saying they saw limbs blown off, bodies, etc. Crazy. But there are literally hundreds of medical personnel, police and volunteers on site at the finish and they responded immediately. In less than a minute, the area was contained. They are doing an amazing job. And, as you can imagine, the phones are lighting up with concerned friends and family. I have received 100+ texts, emails within 20 minutes of the explosion, and everyone around me is doing the same.”
Dean Karnazes of San Francisco, a world-renowned marathoner, said he finished about 40 minutes before the blasts and that downtown Boston erupted into chaos immediately afterward:
“It’s Patriots’ Day, so it’s a state holiday. It’s the most glorious day ever in Boston. From the start, for 26.2 miles, it’s a fanfare. I’m almost tearing up right now because so much happened today in not a great way. And even as I stand here with my finishing medal around my neck, it’s almost a tragedy to put it around my neck knowing other people were injured or killed during the event—it just takes something away from it.”
Jim McNevin of San Diego a coach with PR Marathon training, had completed the course and was resting about two blocks away when the explosions happened:
“Everybody’s in shock. You know, I’ve done the Boston Marathon nine years in a row now, and at the end of the race we all get together and it’s a celebration, and no one’s celebrating … it’s awful.”
Lucretia Ausse of Berkeley just crossed the finish line three minutes before the first explosion went off:
“I was at the third station getting my medal when the first explosion occurred, and we all gasped and turned and saw a huge plume of white smoke. And then, not too long after that, a second one occurred, and there was another huge plume of white smoke. And about that time, people started to get panicked. … The first explosion — this is really wild — the first explosion sounded like a water cannon. I thought, ‘Wow, why would they be doing water cannon now?’ You know, sometimes they do water cannons at the beginning of a race, but the first explosion sounded like a water cannon and it was really odd. Why would they do that now? … So, the race officials immediately had us moving away. People did get panicked. They were nervous, they were on their phones, they were trying to reach people, they really wanted to get their gear checked quickly. So, we didn’t know what was going on. All we knew was we were told to move away from the area.
“It’s really disturbing, I came to do the Boston Marathon, and the marathon went swimmingly. It was a fabulous marathon. It’s really well organized. And there’s so many spectators and such incredible crowd support that it’s a joy to be out on the race course and then to have this happen — it chilled my heart. Because the first thing that I thought of was: There are so many spectators down there, not just runners, but so many spectators lining the streets that if an explosion occurred near the spectators, it’s going to be serious. And, as we’re speaking, the sirens still haven’t stopped.”
Phillip Kent was one of about 20 people running with the L.A. Leggers. He was 20 yards from the finish line during the first explosion:
“I was coming up on the finishing line, about 20 yards from the finishing line, the explosion was right there to the left. I was 20 yards away. I felt the concussion on my lungs and my ears. I looked up and saw parts of the building, major chunks of cement, just pouring down on the sidewalk on top of people. It was very devastating.
“And then ten seconds later another explosion went off just behind me about 20 yards about the same level. At that point chaos broke out. Spectators were pouring out onto the race course trying to get away from the buildings and other explosions.”
Beth Goldstein of San Francisco was retrieving her belongings a few blocks from the finish line when she heard two explosions and then…nothing:
“It was pretty much dead silence after that. I mean everyone, no one spoke and the sirens didn’t start for probably about three to five minutes but it felt longer. But it was just this eerie dead silence. And then some people started to cry, I don’t know if there were just — had just run a marathon or were frazzled already, but there was definitely a dread feeling that some people immediately had.”
Dino Piacentini of San Francisco heard the explosions, but did not know what had happened until friends and family began contacting him:
“You think about what should be this really euphoric, thrilling moment and when something like this happens…there are people who didn’t get to finish, and that’s fine. But can you imagine being held and saying ‘oh we’re stopping the race’, and knowing that your family is waiting for you at this square to cheer you on and that something may have happened to them? I couldn’t even imagine and it’s just devastating, it’s horrible…I want [to] come back. I feel like I’ve got to come back.”
Elvin Wong of Cupertino attends Boston University. He was close to the finish line at a food court during the explosions:
“We first heard one small pop. We didn’t know it was an explosion, because it was like, it was just like a rumble. And then, right afterwards, we heard a massive, just this explosion, and then it rumbled the building. And then everybody started bolting out of the food court, the mall. And then we saw smoke coming down from Copley Square, which is where the finish line is. And then we definitely knew it was an explosion.
“By the time we got out of there, there were a lot of people, just everybody clearing out the streets. There were a lot of people crying in the streets, trying to get to people. but there were, the phone lines were all down, cause nobody could get, you know, any calls. I couldn’t even call out myself. All the lines were down and I heard somewhere they were actually going to take down the cell phone towers [signal] for security reasons. Once we got about a mile out of that area … by the time we ran and got about a mile outside the perimeter, the area, people were still running and cheering, as if, you know, they were still going. There were still people running along the marathon, on the street, and a lot of people were still cheering on their friends and family. It seems like there was nothing really going on out there. And then you can see people who know about it, and people who don’t know about it.”
Jonathan Zingman of Oakland heard the explosion after he finished the race. But then he had to find his wife, daughter and father who were closer to the blasts:
“Just everybody’s absolutely in shock. We were watching the local news and they repeated over and over it is a huge party; the city shuts down. Twenty-seven thousand runners ran today. Everybody is out there to have a good time, and everybody was in shock. We were in the common room in the dorm and all the kids were just in shock seeing this kind of thing…You just can’t imagine that someone would want to ruin this great event. And its just so sad that it’s going to have spoiled it and destroyed it and I think the other marathons becausee nobody is going to want to risk it again, but who knows what they’re going to do about it. It’s just very sad.”