Between the Two Bombs

I am located near the Italian flag in the upper part of the picture. Photo courtesy of WHDH.

I was between the two bombs, watching the Boston Marathon and waiting for my daughter cross the line.

One hundred feet from the first bomb. Two hundred feet from the second one. That is where I found myself on Monday morning, Patriots Day, Boston’s finest day of the year.
I was on Boylston Street, near the corner of Exeter, waiting to see my daughter, Margaret, finish her first marathon.
Nearby was my wife, Gail, and Margaret’s spouse, Maggie. We were at different locations but all nearby.
And then the bomb went off, I saw the smoke and thought a building had exploded. I turned to run down Exeter Street and then the second bomb exploded. My left ear ached but all I could think about was finding Gail and the girls.
Photo courtesy of ktla.com

Cell phones were nearly useless. So many people were trying to make calls that no one could.

People were running in every direction. Some knew what was going on, some had no idea.
I reached Newberry Street, parallel to Boylston, and ran in the direction where I hoped to find Gail.  Away from Boylston, some people were still going about their daily business. One woman, on her way to appointment, asked me for directions. She hadn’t an idea in the world what was taking place.
The sidewalks were mobbed and so I ran down the middle of Newberry. Drivers were still headed toward up Newberry, not realizing what was happening.
I finally reached Gail on Boylston Street, near Boston Public Garden.  Gail was helping people find their way. Many poor runners, alternatively sweating and cold, and getting stiff, were unable to get to their hotels to shower.
Map courtesy of theverge.com.
Unable to use our phones, we tucked into the park and a bit away from the crowd. It was chaotic, but somewhat calmer than being on the street.
Finally reaching Maggie by phone, were learned that Margaret was at mile twenty-four when the race was stopped.
A couple visiting Boston for the marathon asked Margaret how she was going to get home, and then gave her a twenty dollar bill to get a cab.
Gail and I began to walk to Somerville and then caught the T (subway), just before it closed down. Maggie walked from Boylston Street.
We were united about an hour later.
The day had started very differently, but with warnings.
Margaret at mile four. Photo by Gail McKenna.
Gail & Maggie cheering Margaret on. Photo by Ray McKenna.

To see Margaret early on in the race, we took the commuter train from Boston to Braintree. Arriving at the train station, I was impressed with a police officer and his dog. The dog seemed to be dragging the officer. What the dog was doing was sniffing every bag, including Gail’s, as people entered the station.

It was just one reminder among many over the course of the day, of just how heavy the police and military presence was.
After watching Margaret at mile four, we moved on to Wellesley where at about mile fourteen we saw National Guard troops on high alert for any trouble.
Margaret high-fiving Maggie near mile fourteen. Photograph by Ray McKenna.
After that, we headed to the finish line to see Margaret come in.
As I stood at the barricades near the LensCrafters store, I had only one concern, getting a good photo of Margaret. Flags were flying in front of me and police officers walked back and forth in front of my line of vision.
And then it happened.
The LensCrafters Store just feet from where I stood. Courtesy of hamodia.com.
Since then, I feel a sadness and disorientation. I am most concerned with Maggie, who saw more than any of the rest of us. She saw people jump from the viewing stands and break and dislocate bones, as well as some who stampeded over others to get to safety. Beyond that, I am not sure what she saw and I dare not ask her. Yet.
Her great concern was that Margaret was OK. Margaret, had she stayed on pace, would have arrived just as the bombs were going of. But as luck would have it, she was slowed and was still two miles away.
Afterwards, we reunited at their apartment. And in the meantime, we heard from so many. From my brother, Tom, and my sister, Barbara, and many friends.
It was just so horrible. And yet we are so lucky. If I had found an opening at the barricades to take photos a few feet sooner, I might have been a casualty. And Maggie, right across from the bomb, could have died. Had Gail come our way, or had Margaret run her 8:50 mile goal, it could have been so different.
The most beautiful day in the whole year in New England, Patriots Day in Boston, will never be quite the same again.

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