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.

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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.

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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.