Franklin County residents recount scene at blast site
Sara Smiarowski, 33, of Sunderland, said she had finished 30 to 40 minutes earlier and had finally made it through the finish chute and on to the family meet-up area at the Boston Marathon after a disappointing 4:04:18, slower than the usual because she had a baby 10 weeks ago.
There she met up with her husband and their daughter, Piper, when they heard the explosions about two blocks away.
“They were right next to each other, pretty loud, it was pretty apparent that it was an explosion,” Smiarowski said. “My husband and I kind of looked at each other, we didn’t want to believe it.”
With their car parked nearby, they left immediately to get on the Mass. Pike before the traffic.
On the trip back they learned what had happened and got in touch with others in their tight-knit running community to make sure everyone was OK, which they were.
As always, local residents and area natives were among those running or watching friends and family from the sidelines Monday.
So far, everyone on the short list of locals known to be attending the marathon was unhurt following the explosions that reportedly killed three people and injured more than 130 others near the finish line on Boylston Street.
Smiarowski wasn’t sure whether she would run the marathon again, a race she has completed four times.
“I thought about that all the way home; it’s a great race, it’s fun, I was thinking about all the changes the race director will have to make in the future. It’s 26.2 miles of people that you can’t protect against threats. I don’t know what the future will hold.”
Smiarowski said the possibility of a marathon as a target had occurred to her in the past.
“It had been in the back of my mind, but that’s just the risk we live with in today’s society,” Smiarowski said.
Sean Killeen, a 2005 Greenfield High School graduate now living in Quincy, ran the marathon to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“Finished I think about 10 or 15 minutes before it actually happened,” Killeen said. “I finished, I got my medal I was getting food and drink when all of a sudden I heard two loud explosions.”
Killeen said he heard the detonations but the scene and smoke were blocked by buildings. It became apparent something was going on when he saw ambulances and police rushing toward the finish.
Killeen regrouped with his friends and family at the Marriott hotel at Copley Place, until it was evacuated.
He and his girlfriend both had other friends in the race and began trying to reach them. All turned out to be unhurt.
“One of my friends was between the two explosions; he saw somebody get seriously injured. Thank God he’s OK, but he saw something that probably nobody should have to see,” Killeen said.
“It’s terrible and it’s unfortunate, and it’s terrible and unfortunate that it happened at such a great event,” Killeen said.
Beside the elite were many like Killeen running to raise money for charitable causes, and he wishes to thank the friends, family and strangers who helped raise almost $12,000 for Dana-Farber.
Killeen said he is sure Monday will be in the back of everybody’s minds next year, and next year’s race will be a statement.
“I think it would be a shame if something like this ruined Boston,” he said.
Carley Lemay was headed back to her dorm room at Boston University to get a pair of flip flops when she heard a loud explosion Monday afternoon, she said.
“People were ducking and there were a couple of screams,” said Lemay, 19, of Greenfield, who was clearly shaken while talking to a reporter. “We weren’t close to the explosion. We were at Kenmore and the explosion happened at Lenox, I think. But, it was still scary.”
Lemay said she could not see what happened, but said there were hundreds of people on the streets she traveled back to school.
“I could hear ambulances, police cruisers, and fire trucks,” she said. “I immediately called my mom and dad, so they wouldn’t worry.”
Lemay said before she knew what had happened, she started getting calls from friends from all over the country.
“They wanted to know that I was OK,” she said.
Lemay, who is the niece of Franklin County Register of Probate John Merrigan, said one of her friends, who was in the marathon, is in the hospital.
“We don’t know why,” she said through tears. “We don’t know if it’s because of the explosion or something else. It’s scary. We’re just waiting to hear.”
Lemay said she planned to stay at BU for the rest of the day and evening. She said she hadn’t heard whether BU was enforcing any lockdowns, evacuations or restrictions on where students could go.
Cassie Taylor of Greenfield, running her first Boston Marathon, said she was about half a mile from the finish line when the race stopped.
“We were just stopped, we were corralled, there was thousands of us just kind of wondering what was going on,” Taylor said. “Everyone around me said that they heard the booms; I was not paying attention because I was just trying to finish the damn race.”
The Boston Marathon is an apex for many marathoners, a racing institution and a name that carries an unusual degree of respect and recognition. Runners build up to the event with qualifying times at other marathons, and the day itself brings fanfare the sport doesn’t often attract, as thousands throng the streets and shut down a swathe of a major city.
Kelly Yankowski of Turners Falls was among those in the city for the race, there to watch her sister’s boyfriend’s sister, Lauren Galenski, compete.
Yankowski said this was Galenski’s fifth marathon but first Boston, and friends and family had gathered for the race.
By 4:30 p.m. Yankowski said almost everyone was safe and sound in Galenski’s South Boston apartment, having walked back through the city after public transportation stopped running. About 20 gathered in the apartment and the one person still outside had been in touch and was on her way back.
“It’s a crazy time to get out of there, SWAT teams and you can’t cross the street because there are just rows of cop cars going every which way,” Yankowski said.
Galenski had crossed the finish line, met up with the group at the friends and family area and were headed back toward the finish line when they heard the explosions.
“We were less than a block away from where the explosion was, people just started running from every direction -- people just started running from every direction,” Yankowski said. “People were crying; people were frantically on their phones.”
The first explosion she thought might have been some kind of cannon celebrating the race, and the echo made it seem as though it came from a different direction. “Then the second one, we were standing with a policeman on a corner of the street and he was directing traffic, and he stopped directing traffic and he froze.”
Waiting for her daughter to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon, Elaine Puleo of Shutesbury heard an explosion about 200 yards away that she and others initially thought was a cannon firing.
When a second explosion occurred moments later, they quickly realized that something was amiss.
“It was just chaos. It was chaos,” Puleo said. “It was really a frightful event.”
Puleo said the explosions caused immediate confusion as runners were not allowed to complete the race, family members waiting couldn’t get in touch with their loved ones right away and panic set in as fire trucks, ambulances and police cruisers quickly descended onto the scene.
Through it all, Puleo said police officers, bomb squads and emergency personnel appeared to act in a professional manner.
“They were handling it as best they could, but there were just so many people,” Puleo said.
Puleo, who made it to her son’s home in Somerville by early evening, said her nerves remained shaken. It was the first time her daughter, Jessica Summers, was competing, and though she was unable to complete the race, had she been running her usual pace she would have been crossing the line just as explosions occurred.
“She was having a bit of a bad day,” Puleo said.
While Puleo’s husband, John Buonacorsi, was tracking Summers, Puleo was not reunited with her family until about 45 minutes later at the Boston Common.
David Perlmutter of Shutesbury was volunteering in the press center, which he estimates was 50 to 100 yards from the finish line, but his job ended when the elite field crossed the line and he had left the area by 1 p.m. and was back in western Massachusetts when he heard the news.
Perlmutter said he knows 10 to a dozen people who ran Monday, and all were safe. Himself a runner and a past participant, Perlmutter said he would not hesitate to volunteer by the finish line again and hopes to compete again as well.
With everyone preoccupied and cellphone service uncertain, verifying safety became the activity of the day.
Mark Mazzola of Deerfield, a regular in the Boston Marathon who did not compete this year, said he spent the afternoon taking calls from friends and family worried that he had been in the race or the audience.
Mazzola said in the past the area where the bombs are reported to have exploded has been a solid wall of people, impossible to walk through back to watch the finish, and the number injured could have been much worse.
Like Smiarowski, Mazzola said the risk had occurred to him, with the reminder of a heavy police presence.
“It’s a place where people are packed shoulder to shoulder,” Mazzola said. “You also have all the world’s media.”
Nevertheless, he plans to run the marathon again as soon as he can.
“I’m running Boston again, I’ll run Boston again without a second thought,” he said. “It will not affect my decision to run again.”
Scott Miner, 19, of Greenfield, was among an army of emergency medical workers already at the scene for the race.
A volunteer Gill firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician, Miner volunteered with a group of EMTs at mile 17.
Miner is also a runner and assistant coach of the Greenfield High School cross country and track teams, and said he couldn’t pass up the chance to volunteer at the marathon.
After the explosions, which they heard of second-hand, Miner’s group volunteered to move up to an emergency treatment station at mile 20 and went from treating cramps and heat exhaustion to dealing with the aftermath of the explosions, shrapnel injuries and the continuing problem of dehydration.
“I definitely can’t say enough about the crew I was working with, just the passion everybody (showed), we were all volunteers, working for free and the fact that they all, everyone, stepped up and went in like that ... it was inspiring,” Miner said.