BOSTON - Nancy Wilson was standing on the other side of the finish line of Monday’s Boston Marathon when she heard the blasts that killed three people and wounded scores of others.
A registered nurse, Wilson and her colleague Lynne were in charge of a tent where runners were supposed to be treated for dehydration or random injuries like sprained ankles. The explosions nearly knocked them off their feet.
“It sounded like a canon and went right through me,” Lynne said.
“We told the runners to keep moving and to get out,” Wilson added. “It was like on September 11. You run for your life and don’t think about anything else.”
Just moments earlier, thousands of people had stood along Boylston Street near Copley Square cheering on the runners. The oldest annual marathon in the US, the Boston Marathon takes place on Patriots Day, a state holiday commemorating the opening battle of the American Revolution.
The blasts brought the marathon to a premature ending, but even hours later some runners were still roaming the streets searching for belongings, loved ones and shelter.
“I was stopped at Boston College,” one female runner said as she headed towards Newbury Street, usually known for its upscale cafes and where organizers had set up an information center.
“I was lucky. I crossed the finish line just a few minutes before the explosion,” another exhausted runner said on the corner of Commonwealth Avenue where police had blocked off a section of the sidewalk so the bomb squad could inspect a suspicious bag found in a garbage bin.
“We are checking every bag we find and will keep streets closed until we go through all of them,” explained a police captain at the scene. Some of the bags, he said, would be destroyed and others simply investigated. “We have our ways of doing things but I can’t get into to detail exactly how.”
By nightfall, the streets were still littered with empty water bottles and thousands of the shiny thermal blankets handed out to runners after they cross the finish line. A pink pair of running shoes was left on the side of a street, leaning up against a light pole.
In addition to Boston Police, special SWAT teams were deployed throughout the area and busloads of National Guardsmen were brought to the Boston Common awaiting their orders.
Despite the bombings, Bostonians said that they would not stop the city and that the 117-year-old marathon would carry on.
“You’ll see,” one person said. “Next year there will be even more people running.”