Explosions at the Finish Line: Two Eyewitness Accounts of Boston’s Marathon Attack

A marathon runner and a sideline observer recall the moment two explosions detonated on the marathon course

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Two explosions near the finish line of Monday’s Boston Marathon have left at least three people dead and more than 130 injured. The devices, which a government official tells TIME were “crude” in construction, detonated on the sidelines of the racecourse, causing both runners and spectators to flee in every direction. A pair of white smoke clouds enveloped the sidelines.

News continues to come in from the scene of the blasts; follow TIME’s live blog here. TIME also interviewed two people on the scene — one a runner, one a worker in a nearby office — who witnessed the chaos firsthand:

Elise Piatkowski, nearby office worker:

I was in my office, which overlooks the finish line. I felt and heard the first explosion and then the second one shortly after. I came out to the windows and saw all the smoke and looked down onto the sidewalk and saw a lot of blood on the sidewalk.

At that point, everybody just decided to evacuate the building and get out of the center of the city. We pulled the fire alarm and ran down the stairs, and it was very, very chaotic and confusing. There were people running, people crying. There were people injured all over the place, people carrying a young boy whose leg was bleeding, another sitting on the curb holding her neck, and her friends were screaming for help.

Everybody I was with was saying “head toward the water,” so everyone started walking or running toward the Charles River. We were warning people who didn’t know what had happened not to go toward the center of the city.

(PHOTOS: Carnage Descends on Boston’s Marathon Day)

It was hard to pinpoint the exact smell of the explosion, but it just smelled like an explosion, smelled like chemicals, and it was very confusing because a lot of people were just carrying the injured away from the scene. It seemed as we were fleeing the scene, we continued to see injured people, so (we had a difficult time ascertaining) where the explosions happened, if there were more. Ambulances kept coming in.

We just continued to walk along the Charles River, trying to get away. I was with a co-worker in the seaport area, and he was trying to guide us. We’re in the west end of Boston near Mass General, hoping that we’re safe.

Dana McLaren, marathoner:

I had finished the marathon; I had picked up my bag and was walking back toward my hotel. I was a couple of streets north of Boylston when I heard one explosion.

My first thought was: there’s a bomb, a really loud bomb. It’s not normal for a finish cannon to be happening at that point in the race.

(MORE: How to Locate Friends and Donate Blood in Boston)

So I booted up my phone, got in touch with my family, and I heard people around me talking about a bomb, so I assumed that’s what it was. I kept walking to the hotel … I saw people walking away from the finish line, crying and distraught.

There was a smell, a smell that something bad had happened. I lived in New York City during 9/11 so I know what an explosion smells like. The room I’m in now is the central location where my friends are; we are trying to pack up and get out of town, but we’re not sure about the trains. We were supposed to leave the city half an hour ago.

Follow TIME’s live blog of Boston’s marathon explosions for further updates.

82 comments
Nicole Simper
Nicole Simper

you know what time mag i hade respct for you but i have lost it do to the fact that you over did it with your lies and pic of the child how dair you triy to make it more then it is just to make a doller my god have his way with you

TheLogician
TheLogician

This is an awful incident, and all the people are yelling, "Conservatives!" when it could very well be a communist, liberal, jihadist, neonazi, gang member, gay person, North Korean, Palestinian, it could be ANYBODY, yet you morons are screaming "NRA GUN NUT!"

You say the marathon was dedicated to Newtown, so it must be an NRA member. But the area is also a banking district, and it was tax day, might be a poor person who can't pay their taxes. The area is near the Republican HQ (Boston) maybe it was a liberal? Probably it was a schizophrenic nutjob who wanted to kill.

Neema Froutan
Neema Froutan

Jet fuel does not smell like cordite. Thanks for trying to make your "story" something to stand out in such a tragedy.

Juliana Celik
Juliana Celik

Jack Watters, the person didn't say the smell of a bomb, but the smell of an explosion. Still, I know what you mean..;)

Muhammad R. Islam
Muhammad R. Islam

I had also same experienced as you did; that will be remain in my mind forever. I was into the peoples mind while 9/11's furious incidents were happening. The same smell terrifies me all the time. We all want to smell aromatic rosy aromas, not the smokey-smell that had left our mind saddened. Please all, make our each of the 50 states, a garden of the aromatic roses and keep the garden out of the insect!

Jack Watters
Jack Watters

9/11 wasn't the smell of a bomb exploding...

Geraldo Dias
Geraldo Dias

Death penalty for these cowards. They are not human beings; they are human beasts

JChristopher99
JChristopher99

@BaFana3 did you not know... having even seen 9/11 attacks on TV gives you a licence to talk utter crap on the issue of terrorism in the US

mcmurdo22
mcmurdo22

hey idiots, don't blame Muslims, don't blame radical Christians until you know ALL of the FACTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Holy Mary mother and Joseph i figured that FACTS determine who is too blame for such tragedies. Not a prejudice view of the world you back woods rednecks and pot smoking hippies. have a wonderful tall glass of STHU before you open your mouth and say something incorrect. Maybe, just maybe we can come together as AMERICANS and help out the people of Boston. They are hurting and need some good ol'e American hospitality. We are one people of many different creeds, races, beliefs and morals. Remember that those lost are someones father, brother, son, daughter, mother, sister, friend, spouse. Imagine if such a horrible act were to happen to your family.

TheLogician
TheLogician

That might have been North Korea's nuke strike. I kid, I kid.

JimMorgan
JimMorgan

Well, possible suspects:

1) Representatives of the 'religion of peace'

2) North Korean agents

3) Right wing gun nuts

DennisMadden
DennisMadden

Where is our MAN OF THE YEAR OBAMA???????????

JeffHenderson
JeffHenderson

And this is why congress needs to have the balls to completely terminate all student visas and all immigration to the US from middle east nations.  Add that to your immigration reform measures and smoke it.  Their culture is disrespectful of women, and the rights we hold so dear in the USA.  These people will not integrate into our society and we shouldn't hold back in saying that our way of life is superior to theirs in every way.  We cherish equality, our freedom to speak out, to worship and debate in a free democratic process.  I know someone will come back and try to claim the US isn't all that great, but it is the best system there has ever been.  We are risking a great deal by letting this multicultural bs go too far.  As an Atheist I find the kind of violence being perpetrated against others in the name of a god the most deplorable and ignorant of all acts.  It is an ideology that needs to either be stamped or starved out completely.  Sure not all people from the middle east are violent people, but I wouldn't increase the risk of something like this happening again just to be a humanitarian.  These war mongers and violent societies need change their ways and embrace an enlightened way of thinking or recede back into the dark ages where they belong forever.

MajVariola
MajVariola

Why do you post authoritatively on things you know nothing about?



"There was a smell, a smell that something bad had happened. I lived in NYC during 9/11 so I know what an explosion smells like. 

The cruise missile that took down the WTC was  dieselfueled and there was no explosion.  Though if you only based your life on hollywood.... 
The pipe bomb you just enjoyed was black powder.  Little blast, some shrapnel.  Yawn, early 18th century stuff.
BP is just a low-order material you must confine or it does nothing.Cf. a brisant explosive which will cut steel merely by sitting on it.

cybervigilante
cybervigilante

The explosions were not simultaneous so they weren't triggered by a cell phone. The delay between explosions was just enough time for someone to set a timer, cross from one side of the street to another, and set a second one. He probably set them for the same delay for simplicity. They need to review tapes and look for someone crossing the street with a package, sometime before the explosions. You wouldn't set a Long time or it might be discovered.

TheLogician
TheLogician

First off, it isn't a jihadist group, they know where to put the bombs, definitely not professional, at least 3 did not explode. The device was not C4, or TNT, probably a cherry bomb hooked to a delay, usually a cigarette in a matchbook. Or it could be a mix of gunpowder and saltpeter, hooked to a lighting mechanism which could be activated by cellphone. Definitely he or he was not trained and did not have a plan, probably an anarchist or another extremist

AnatolePushkin
AnatolePushkin

Why are the Republicans silent?

Where are the loquacious Rand Paul and his twin Paul Ryan?

sgreco1970
sgreco1970

The last mile was dedicated to the newtown victims and many of their families were present. I'm willing to bet this was set up by some NRA gun nut who thinks they're fighting "tyranny." When we find whomever did this, we will humiliate them in court and in the media and see them either imprisoned for the rest of their lives or executed. Whoever you are, if you did this and you're reading this, your time is running out. Tick tock. You'll be in custody by the weekend.

rocketdetrain
rocketdetrain

@JimMorgan excuse me but the sick souls committing the mass shootings have been the offspring of self identified liberals.

TheLogician
TheLogician

Of course, it must be the republicans. And your proof is...?

JimMorgan
JimMorgan

probably an egg or washing machine timer

rocketdetrain
rocketdetrain

@AnatolePushkin Unlike certain other lime light loving victim abusing officials, they are most likely doing their jobs.

rocketdetrain
rocketdetrain

@AnatolePushkin <<<<<should be declared mental. Seriously. The NRA is more for individual freedoms and rights unlike nutjobs like you who are so self centered that you can't fathom any other wants other than your own.

TheLogician
TheLogician

Anatole, shut up. Just because they want guns do not make them terrorists. Maybe the liberals should be declared totalitarians or communists.

cybervigilante
cybervigilante

@sgreco1970 If you watched the fulminating rage of some NRA types about the "gun grab" you're realize how insanely angry they are. They also claim Newtown was a hoax, and the "families" are professional actors hired by the "gummint," who would deserve to die.

alienstarship
alienstarship

@sgreco1970  I would not be surprised if you are right. And when he or she or they are caught they do not deserve to breath air on this planet.

KindaSorta2
KindaSorta2

@sgreco1970 Wow.  I can't believe even the smallest lib brain could concoct such stupidity.

TheLogician
TheLogician

Cherry bomb is generally used for a homemade shrapnel device.

sgreco1970
sgreco1970

@KindaSorta2 @sgreco1970 Really? All we've heard for months since newtown is how you righties are going to secede and take up arms against tyranny. Now its unthinkable that one of you disturbed maniacs has done it? 

Cry revolution less often if you want it to be unthinkable that you'd do it. In fact, quit all of your crying.

TheLogician
TheLogician

@sgreco1970 @TheLogician That's secession. If a whole state agrees against the central government, should they all move to Canada? That's a great idea, all republicans, get to Canada, we will come back in the 10 months it takes for the liberals to go south with no one to stop them. Open boarders, Mexican militants beheading people in the street, no guns to protect them, crime is up, the jails have been opened, free commerce is out, it resembles the Soviet Union in its final days.

TheLogician
TheLogician

We've been 'crying' for secession since early December, so to say it was because of new town is SO wrong.