What Happened at the Boston Marathon Bombing? A Personal Tale: When Just a Few Minutes Matter

My first thought: I was safe, but my mom was still out there. I picked up my phone and called my dad. In an unusual turn, neither he nor my wife had come to the race to cheer us on for this momentous race. “Dad, I think there was just a bomb at the finish line. I’m OK, and I’m going to find mom.” I hung up. I tried to call my wife, but the line had gone dead. I texted “I think a bomb went off at the finish. I’m safe and as far as I know mom is too I’m going to look for her.” Hawaiian rolls still in hand, Seth and I rushed to the lobby.

The room seemed strangely still. Employees didn’t seem panicked, but also didn’t seem to know what to do. You could hear screams and sirens from out on the street. We squirted by a crowd of people at the front door and tried to figure out where we could go. Streets were blocked by uniformed officers or fully barricaded. The last checkpoint my mom had registered was 40 kilometers, which meant that she was, at most, a mile from the finish — I prayed she was at least that far away.

A volunteer we passed offered that runners on the course were being diverted to Boston Commons. In the best of times my navigational skills are barely north of awful. Now I was also in a fog. Seth pulled out his phone and suggested we make a wide loop to avoid the blocked off streets. I just followed him. We walked together for a few blocks. He pointed out Boston Commons and said he was going to hoof it to Logan Airport to try to catch his plane. As with my wife and family, it was unusual that his wife and daughter had skipped the trip to Boston. He was obviously shaken by what could have been.

I fielded texts from friends and family expressing concern. I sent texts assuring people that my mom would be OK — I just had to find her. I was partially feigning confidence — the mobile tracking systems at races are often inaccurate.

When I finally reached Boston Commons there was hardly anyone there. It didn’t look like runners had been directed there after all. I spotted another volunteer and asked him for information. “I think they’re being sent over to Stuart. But it’s awful over there — people are dead, other people lost limbs. I don’t know if you’ll be able to get over there.”