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My experience at the Boston Marathon (lots of detail, may be difficult for some to read) April 17, 2013 at 5:55pm


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(Originally shared on my Facebook page on April 17, 2013)

I wanted to write all this down while it's fresh. In the process, I found this to be extremely helpful for me. While not necessarily explicitly graphic, it does contain a lot of detail and may be difficult for some people to read.

We stopped at Niketown to try to use the bathroom (found out it was closed) and to buy the marathon t-shirt like I do every year (they didn't have one this year). Disappointed, we headed out of there. Around 2:00, we walked up Exeter Street, paused near the flags at the finish line for a moment, but then I really had to pee, so we decided to walk up Boylston and planned to head back to the finish line a little while later. We walked past Forum (which is the restaurant right by where the second explosion went off...two doors down from Crate & Barrel) and I remember a table of four 20-something women, drinking beers and talking about how they were kind of cold (silly details we remember...). We stopped by Crate because there was a lot of open space between the curb and building and figured we could use their bathroom. I went inside and up the escalator, asked for the code to get into the bathroom, and then had to enter the code 3 separate times before the door finally unlocked for me. For some reason, it just wasn't working, even though I entered the correct numbers each time. After that, I went outside. Erik asked if I was ready to head back (we were going to get ice cream and then continue watching from the finish line). I said that I wanted to hang out there for a little bit longer, take some pictures, and then we could go. We took some pics/video with our camera and then I snapped that pic you all saw on FB with my phone. At that moment, my connection was fine and the photo uploaded quickly. I then decided to try to track my friend, Colleen, to see how close she was to finishing.

At that point, I couldn't get my phone to connect to her FB page to get her number and the link to track her. I tried a couple of times and finally gave up. Lukas got himself buckled into the stroller, and I was putting Zachary into his seat (the lower/back seat on the Phil & Ted). I somehow smacked his face into the handlebar (never did that before!) and he started to cry. I held him and kissed his face and then carefully put him into the seat. I got one side buckled when we heard this loud "BOOM!" in the distance. I paused and stood and said, "What was THAT?" Erik tried to look down the street, but didn't see anything and was just saying, "I don't know...it sounded like a cannon." Within seconds, I saw a burst before my eyes....a flash of red, smoke and debris. Everyone around us was yelling and people either froze or started to run. I grabbed the stroller and just shouted, "NO! Not this...not my kids...please....they are my whole world...NO!" as I tried to shield the stroller from one side, while Erik put his body around the other side.

We immediately got down and were huddled against the Crate & Barrel building with several other people. I remember a young man beside me shouting "Everyone get down! Stay down!" At that moment, my thoughts were of the when/where the next blast would be, since we now had a better idea of what the first sound was and had seen the second one, so we were just expecting that another was soon to come. I kept waiting for it to happen right in front of us, since they seemed to be getting closer. I knew we shouldn't go closer to the street, but didn't know what to do. Finally, I just stood and said, "We have to go inside. I can't stay out here with our kids."

Erik and I ran to the door of Crate & Barrel just as some women wearing their bright yellow Marathon jackets were attempting to get inside. I just kept shouting, "Please...I need to get my kids off this street. Please let us in!" We got inside and immediately ran to the back of the store. The workers inside were incredible. As frightened as they must have been, they tried so hard to remain calm and to help everyone who came in. They were telling people to go out the back door if they wanted to, but also saying it was okay to stay inside. We moved off to the side at the back of the store, as I was not yet ready to go back outside. My mind whirled. How did we know it was safe out back? What if this person(s) wanted just that: to get people out into the alley behind the buildings?

I needed a moment to collect my thoughts. I then realized that I had never finished buckling the baby into the stroller. I clicked the second buckle in place and then felt like we should get out of the area. We moved out the back door and another wonderful Crate & Barrel employee helped me carry the stroller down the back stairs. Once we were outside, we just started walking. We encountered a few people along the way and quickly told them not to go in the direction we were evacuating, but just kept walking and tried to get away...though we had no idea where we were even trying to go at that point.

We just walked and walked. We were approaching Kenmore Square when something clicked in my brain and I said, "No...we can't go this way. There was a Red Sox game today. We cannot go to Kenmore." At this point, we had no idea what had happened, or what else might be in store. We turned and headed away from Kenmore. We just walked and walked. When we got to Comm Ave at BU, we stopped for a short rest. I remembered the photo I had posted to Facebook shortly before the explosion. I knew that any of my friends who know Boston would recognize where we were standing from that photo. I grabbed my phone and it was ringing. I picked up and my friend, Lora, just started to cry when she heard my voice. She said she would go post on my Facebook page to let everyone know we were okay.

We kept walking. We crossed Comm Ave, down to Beacon St in Brookline, past the Longwood green line T stop, over to the Riverway. At the back of one of the hospitals (I honestly don't even know if it was B&W or BI), we saw a taxi just sitting at the top of the hill. We walked up there and found the driver was just sitting listening to the news. He seemed to be in disbelief. We told him where we'd come from and he was just amazed we had walked all that way. He agreed to drive us home to Dedham. We all piled in to the taxi. I couldn't believe how my amazing 5 year old was so calm. He just grabbed the seat belt and asked me to help him buckle in. I didn't even pause to think about the fact that we had no car seat for the baby. I just helped Erik buckle himself and the baby in together. I put my arms around each of my boys and breathed for what felt like the first time in over an hour.

By 5:00 pm, we were home. We had tons of voice mails and text messages. I immediately called my mom and then my sister in NY just so they knew we were okay (they had seen/heard about the explosions on the news, and knew we were supposed to be at the finish line watching the marathon), and then I just sat up in the baby's room with him, snuggled him close and immediately said a prayer of thanks for getting us home safely. It wasn't until later that evening, when we saw the maps of the explosion locations that we saw just how close we really were to that second explosion. What if my phone had connected right away so I could track my friend? What if I had gotten the baby buckled in sooner? We would have been walking directly into that explosion. That's where we were heading. As soon as the baby was buckled, that was the plan. I keep trying to remind myself, "But we didn't", but still I cannot get the image of that explosion out of my mind. I can still smell it. It was like the burning odor of fireworks after they are set off.

I keep seeing things about how to explain this to kids, how to shield them from it. I can't even believe that my 5 year old actually saw it in real life. That he was there. He saw the smoke. He saw the people running, crying and screaming. I am a school psychologist. I am trained to help kids deal with tragedy and crisis. I still never thought I'd be facing something like this with my own children. So far, Lukas is handling it pretty well. He will randomly mention something about an "explosion", but is otherwise dealing very well. I don't know what the days/weeks/months to come will hold, but we'll approach it and handle it in the best way possible. For myself, I was unable to sleep Monday night. Last night was a little better. Today, I ventured out and went to my Baby Boot Camp class with the kids. A loud truck rumbling past made my pulse race. The sun reflecting off a car in the distance in a bright flash sent my heart into my throat. I know the healing process is still a long road.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I feel a little better every time I tell my story. It's difficult, though, because not everyone wants to or can deal with hearing it. Writing it out is an important part of the process for me. I'm sure you've heard lots of similar stories, as there were so many people there that day, and I think everyone on Boylston Street has been deeply and directly impacted by this in some way.


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