“It puts a cloud over the event for everyone,” said runner Maureen Tighe of Boston’s North End. “The people who finished. The people who didn’t. And the spectators. I don’t know if it will ever be the same.”
Marathon officials and police immediately ended the race after the explosions, turning runners away from Copley Square. Officials told television viewers to stay out of the city and asked runners and spectators to go home or back to their hotels and avoid gathering in crowds.
Police with megaphones shouted instructions to the crowds at the corner of Massachusetts and Commonwealth avenues: “There have been some explosions. Please evacuate the area. We’re looking for secondary devices.”
Investigators faced an overwhelming crime scene, littered with bags dropped by people fleeing the blasts. Police had to treat every backpack and gym bag as a potential deadly threat. Authorities blocked cell hone service to the area to prevent any other device from being detonated by phone, leaving thousands of athletes and spectators unable to call loved ones to make sure they were okay.
Police locked down a 15-block area around the scene of the attack, in the heart of the Back Bay neighborhood. State Police sent units to every hospital in the city and to South Station to provide security and swept the State House for bombs, as a precaution.
The aftermath of the tragedy is expected to be felt throughout the city on Tuesday. Governor Deval Patrick, who provided periodic updates through the afternoon and evening, said the blast area is expected to be closed Tuesday. He said Boston “will not be business as usual,” in the wake of the terror attack and that police presence will be heavy in the city. MBTA riders can expect random bag searches.
The closed-off area spans the length of Boylston between Berkeley Street and Massachusetts Avenue, and on either side of Boylston from Newbury Street to Huntington Avenue, a section nearly a mile long and three blocks across, he said.
Eyewitnesses to the blasts reported a sudden shock, followed by unreal scenes of human carnage.
“I saw white smoke and at first I thought it might be a firecracker but it was really loud,” said Megan Raftery, who was standing near the finish in front of the Mandarin hotel with her two young sons, waiting to cheer on her Marathon-running husband.
Seconds later, a second explosion directly across Boylston Street, near the Apple store, shot debris high in the air. And when Raftery looked down she saw that the explosion had blown a man’s leg off, just below the knee. “You could see stuff just flying,” she said. “I looked across the street and I could see a man on the sidewalk. There was blood and part of his leg was just gone.”
Ron M. Walls, chief of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women’s, said the hospital had received 26 of the wounded. The youngest was 3 years old and was sent to Children’s Hospital; the oldest was 62.
The injuries included eardrum damage, serious limb and head injuries, but no amputations, he said. Some victims had burns, including one with very significant burns. “I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere before,” he said. “These types of events are things we drill for and practice for and get ready for, but you don’t expect you’re going to see it.”
A US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer was among those who sustained less than life-threatening injuries from the explosion, said a federal law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the information. The officer was off duty and was watching the race with the rest of the spectators. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.
The Patriots Day holiday is steeped in Boston sports tradition, when the Red Sox play a rare morning game at Fenway Park, and the best runners on the planet race from Hopkinton to Copley Square, on a 26.2-mile course lined by millions of cheering, celebrating fans. As part of the prerace security stepped up since the 9/11 terrorists attacks, Boston police had swept the streets for explosives, according to State Police.
Relatives of those killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting massacre were guests at the finish line tent, near where the bombing occurred; a theme of this year’s marathon was “26 Miles for 26 Victims,” referring to those killed in the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
Jay O’Brien, of Cambridge, a race spectator who was about 100 yards from the explosions, said rescuers who ran toward the blast “were clearly putting themselves in harm’s way.” O’Brien went to Brigham and Women’s Hospital after the explosions to see if he could be of any help.Continued...