BOSTON — This year’s Boston Marathon had seemed so normal.
The winners were a man from Ethiopia and a woman from Kenya, and even runners two hours behind raised their arms as they finished, ecstatic just to have made it to the end of one of the most grueling 26.2-mile marathon courses.
Volunteers were on hand to catch those who collapsed as they crossed the blue and yellow finish line. Spectators cheered not just for family members but for every “Dan” or “Alan” smart enough to write his name on his shirt.
Then I heard the first blast. I turned to see gray smoke billowing from the north side of Boylston Street and rising over the photo bridge at the finish line. A few seconds later came another blast.
I did what I was trained to do: I called The Associated Press office and told my editors what little I knew: “There were two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.” I wouldn’t be able to get through on my cellphone again for hours. I texted my wife to tell her I was safe, though she didn’t know what had happened yet.
No one did, really. It could have been a gas explosion, but even without an explanation it was clear that people were hurt. The second blast made it likely they were intentional, and it made me worry that there could be more. I walked toward the damage, more than anything else because I felt it was no more dangerous there than any place else in the area.
Race workers in yellow volunteer jackets and police in yellow safety vests were running past me. EMTs carried their gear or pushed empty wheelchairs, followed soon by doctors in their white volunteer jackets. Runners continued to run, stopping their watches as they crossed the finish line, now confused as well as tired.