GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 16, 2013

Finish line reporter an eyewitness to terror

By Jill Hermacinski
Staff Writer

---- — BOSTON — We were looking for our friends, first-time marathon runners Christian Breen and John Brien, when we jarred by the first loud boom. Then we heard the second boom and saw white smoke mushrooming over the Boston Marathon finish line.

It sounded like cannons or guns going off. I went toward the explosion, as my friend, Lisa Driscoll, stepped back.

We were 65 feet away — at the most — when two bombs went off at 2:50 p.m. Monday at the Marathon finish line. We had media passes and were inside the crowd-control fencing, standing right on Boylston Street.

Runners who had made it past the finish line turned around to see what was happening. Volunteers, security, police and paramedics all started running toward the smoke.

At first, we heard no screaming or yelling, just people trying to figure out what was going on. The sheer excitement and accomplishment of the marathon finish line was suddenly charged with smoke.

Medics started running out of a nearby medical tent with wheelchairs. Those people are trained to hydrate runners and massage exhausted muscles - not pick up dismembered bodies, Lisa later noted.

A medic pushing a wheelchair was sprinting away from the explosion site. In the wheelchair was a bloody runner who had half his leg missing.

Two other women covered in blood were also quickly pushed into the medical tent. A blood covered man on a gurney was loaded into an ambulance.

Another runner, a man wearing only black shorts, came calmly down Boylston Street. He was covered in blood splatter. People kept asking him if he was OK, but he just kept running.

Cruisers, ambulances and firetrucks started racing into the area. A runner ran up to police, saying he was trained in “mass casualty” incidents and telling them he knew what to do.

A sense of panic started creeping through the crowd. People were trying to call family and friends, but there was no cell phone service. Marathon workers were trying to calm people down and keep the crowd behind the portable metal fences.

We kept taking pictures and video, tweeting as much as we could. Warning texts and tweets started pouring in from police and firefighters we knew telling us to “beware of a secondary explosion” and “stay clear of trash cans.” And finally, a grim note from a great source: “Get the hell out of Boston now.”

On Newbury Street, a woman, wrapped in a silver marathon blanket, sat in a wheelchair crying. She’d finished the marathonand made it away from the explosion. She wanted to call her mother. But her cell phone was dead, and she couldn’t remember her mom’s cell phone number. A marathon medic stood by her side, telling her she was going to help her find her family.

As we stepped onto the Common, a stranger came up next to us. He told us he was so happy we were OK.

”I was standing right behind you two on Boylston Street,” he said. We all smiled.

Back at the car, when we were able to recharge our phone, we were flooded with text and messages. We never got to see our friends finish the race yesterday, but thanks to Facebook, we knew fairly quickly they were OK.

Follow staff reporter Jill Hermacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.