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Boston Marathon Bombing | A Personal Account of Being at the Finish Line

Boston Marathon Bombing | A Personal Account of Being at the Finish Line
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Then the last few years leading up to this year – we have had Patriot’s Day Red Sox tickets.  The kids are older now – and so it was the perfect way to see a game and see the Marathon in Kenmore Square – have a fun day in the city as a family. In February of this year I was excited to learn I had been accepted as a volunteer (98% of the volunteers are veterans). The three of us all got in and we were assigned to the finish in front of the VIP Tent where the wheel chair division, elite runners, BAA running club and sponsored runners (Adidas, John Hancock and others) are funneled through to after crossing the finish line.  We would be working for Bill’s friend and BAA volunteer captain, Paul Clark.

We were positioned in Copley Square between the Trinity Church and the Public Library.  The finish line medical tent was right next to us.

Shortly before 2:50 pm on Monday — we had been hugging runners with a “congratulations!” and warming BAA Boston Marathon blanket for about two hours. We had been working on other tasks since 9 am.  I asked a volunteer to take my place for a break and I walked up to the actual finish line to get a closer look at runners at that amazing moment of victory, relief, celebration, and extreme exhaustion.  My own memories of that moment in 1986 are very fuzzy – but seeing the runners, crossing the line, victorious, no matter the time — brought me right back. I was refreshed and ready for a lot more runners as we figured there were still over 10,000 still to come.

I saw Bill and Cindy as I returned and grabbed a handful of blankets and turned towards the oncoming runners.  I think everyone knows what happened next.  It happened right in front of us. We were aghast.

The blast was so loud. It sent smoke and debris skyward. (We learned later that bomb debris had flown right over our heads).

We were stunned.  And so too were the runners coming at us. We were very busy helping them.

The runners were in shock.  They had no idea what had happened. They were dazed, shivering uncontrollably, needing our blankets, and could barely talk. We reassured them. We hugged them.  Many were very emotional – so we did all we could to take care of them – not knowing at all what many of them had witnessed.

At that point, being optimists, we thought a transformer had blown. But I think that was just talk to reassure ourselves and the runners – as we had heard the second blast further down Boylston Street – and could see another plume of smoke.

Everything started to change rapidly at this point.  The runners stopped coming.  We heard it was a “pipe bomb”.  The sounds of sirens all around us – coming from every direction – was deafening. We could not communicate except with hand motions.  Copley Square was the epicenter for ambulances.

Cindy and Bill headed up towards the smoke and the finish to see if they could help.

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JD Hale


JD Hale

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