Stories from the Finish Line

The undergraduate students profiled below were primarily located between Mile 25 and the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Meanwhile, Alex Trautwig, BC ’12, was in Kenmore Square. Of those interviewed, four were runners for the BC Campus School Marathon Team and two were spectators.

Amy Hachigian

Amy Hachigian, LSOE ’14, was right across the street when the second bomb went off.

She had spent the last few hours walking from the Boston College campus with her roommate Sarah Bieganski, CSOM ’14, in order to see another roommate, Taylor Steigler, A&S ’14, finish running the marathon for the Campus School. They left from BC around 12 p.m., intending to take a T into the city, only to continue on foot as the trains that passed looked too crowded for them to board. After arriving at the Prudential Center, they met up with her roommate’s family at the Mile 26 banner, planning to continue on to the finish line-and ended up waiting in line for about 15 minutes so that Bieganski could use the restroom. “Actually, a lot of it was really coincidental,” Hachigian said. “It’s crazy, but we were headed towards where the first bomb went off-that was the family reunion area, so that’s where we were meeting our roommate, who was running. That was our end goal.” After her roommate emerged from the Prudential Center, Hachigian and the group began moving toward the finish line.

“We walked maybe 30 seconds from the Pru, and we see two Campus School runners, and we’re like, Oh my God, there’s a bunch of BC kids coming, we’ve got to get to the other side,” she said. “Then maybe 20 seconds after the second Campus Schooler passed us, we heard a boom and saw a ton of smoke-white smoke, and maybe some faint screams, but we didn’t stop walking toward them … we were looking at the first explosion, obviously, and as we were just beginning to process the situation, we hear a blast right across the street from us-the air pulsed against us and as we look there’s a ton of smoke, and there’s a ton of screaming. The glass on the second floor just shattered everywhere.”

The group was opposite the buildings on Boylston Street-whose windows had reflected marathon runners just moments before, a seemingly perfect way to watch the race-as the second bomb exploded.

“Then there was mass panic, chaos-we were about 30 feet away from where the second bomb exploded, directly on the opposite side,” Hachigian said. “We turned our heads to the sound, and you could tell it was clearly coming from the sidewalk, by this pole, and there was a guy there who just had no legs. He was just burned. I don’t know if he’s alive-his eyes were closed.” Hachigian was then pulled into the First Republic Bank on Boylston Street, where she,  Bieganski, and Stiegler’s family hid under an ATM machine. She said that people outside were being trampled.

“It’s very surreal-there was a lot of screaming, but you heard nothing,” she said. “I don’t remember hearing anything, except for my roommate’s dad yelling for us to, ‘Get low, get low,’ and I remember feeling as though we were all about to die, and screaming ‘No, we need to get out’-because we didn’t know how many more explosions there were.”

After some deliberation, the group decided to leave the bank and try to run away from the area. Hachigian recalled planning to take two right turns and move onto a back street in order to get away from the scene. “As we exited, in front of us were the bodies,” she said. “Just … bodies. A lot of marathon runners. This was before intervention came, though. So all the photos are really accurate, but it’s after people were able to get up, and after people were getting help. So when you’re actually there, it’s like, marathon runners on the ground-I didn’t see many people standing … there were some spectators running. And a lot of glass-as soon as you turned the corner this huge piece of glass was stuck in some marathon runner’s leg, his calf, going through it.

“The people in front of us got hit with glass, like a human shield type of thing … no one was really hurt by the glass from what I could tell, it was basically if you were standing next to the bomb, that’s where all the serious injuries were, I guess, and the glass was just superficial-there was a lot of blood, and they were concerned, but they were all awake. Dazed, maybe. We were just trying to get out.”

Anson Petrick

Anson Petrick, A&S ’15, thought he was on his way back to BC when the bombs went off.

After stopping a few times along the route to stretch, Petrick ran the last mile of the marathon. He ran into a few other Campus School runners, collected his medal, and then approached a volunteer to ask for directions to the Arlington T Station. “She was talking to me about how to get to it when I heard what sounded like a cannon blast,” he said. “At the beginning of the marathon, they fire an air cannon to signal that the race has started, and I thought that it was really weird that they were firing it at the end. So I turned around to see what was happening, and I see a massive cloud of smoke rising up out by where the finish line was.”

Petrick said that he and everyone around him watched the finish line for what seemed like 20 seconds, and then he saw the second blast. “At that point, I knew something was wrong,” he said. “I tried getting as far away as I could from the finish line. Where I was, there wasn’t much panic-I was a few hundred feet away, and most of the people just seemed confused or calm about it.”

He borrowed a cell phone from a bystander in order to call his father and tell him that he was safe. Petrick’s mother, who had been standing near the bomb’s location earlier, had left about an hour before the explosion in order to catch a flight.

After walking to the Arlington station and being told to evacuate by police officers, Petrick walked to the Boston Common, where he met another Campus School runner, and they remained there for about an hour and a half.

“No one really knew what was going on,” Petrick said. “When we were standing in front of the hotel … there were all sorts of reports coming in. People were saying that they were finding more bombs, someone said that there were as many as 20 people dead … it was a lot of hearsay, and it just seemed like there was some new development happening every other minute. It was really confusing … it was just chaos, after the blast.” He said that, while he saw many police cars and helicopters in the area, the police didn’t seem to be doing much other than keeping people away from Copley.

Eventually, the parents of another BC student were able to drive down to the Common area, and took Petrick and the others back to BC via Beacon St.-they all returned to campus around 4:15 p.m.

“I intend to run it again next year,” Petrick said. “As shocking as it was, I don’t think it should prevent anyone else from running it in the future.”

Alex Trautwig

Alex Trautwig, a photographer for Getty Images and BC ’12, was at Fenway Park for the Red Sox game when the bombs went off.

“The game was over and I was trying to make my way home-I was getting ready to get on the T-and my mom, who was at the finish line with my dad, called me to tell me what happened,” he said. “They told me that they didn’t know what happened for sure, but I should definitely not be going toward Beacon Street, or the race course. Quite frankly, I went straight towards Beacon.”

Trautwig made it to Kenmore Square at the intersection of Commonwealth Ave. and Beacon St. around 3 p.m. “It became really apparent to me that this was something that had become an important place, because it was where the race was being stopped,” he said. “It was just general confusion and chaos, because you had people that just didn’t get it, and they were yelling at people to get out of the road like they shouldn’t have been there-which, if the race was still going, they shouldn’t have been … People on Beacon St. started coming out, giving water, giving blankets, because these people had just run a marathon, and they were going to be freezing, and for most of them, the harsh reality was, okay, walk a couple more miles to your car, or your hotel. If you can get there, because that wasn’t even possible in a lot of cases.”

Trautwig, who said he knew more about what was going on than most of the people around him, said that there was no central source of information for the runners present. He stayed in Kenmore for about four hours, photographing the scene as the race came to a complete stop and the state police set up a staging area. A bomb squad also came to Kenmore at one point to investigate a suspicious device. “That was probably the only time the police really made an effort to clear everyone out, because until that point there was no way to control it,” he said. He also walked up to the intersection of Mass. Ave. and Newbury St., where he was not allowed to go any further.

“By the time I was done, at 6 o’clock, Kenmore Square was back to normal,” he said. “People were eating outside, going to bars. Acting as if it was okay.”

Jonathan Charlton

Jonathan Charlton, A&S ’15, had just finished running when the bombs went off.

“I was running the marathon, and I was coming out from the finish line,” he said. “You pass it, and there’s a kind of funnel where they have water and GU and little space blankets for the runners, and as I was running down I was about 200 meters away from the finish line, and you heard ‘boom’… ‘boom’… and I turned around, and I saw this big cloud of smoke coming off of the side of the buildings of the north side. It was kind of confusing, because you thought, well, is this a cannon? Is this some kind of weird firework? And then … it doesn’t feel right.”

Charlton said that he walked over to a policeman in a car and asked what had happened, and the officer told him that two pipe bombs had just gone off.

“I was really worried because my dad was supposed to meet me at the finish line, and I was trying to call him but none of the phones were working,” Charlton said. “They immediately sectioned off the entire Boylston area.” Eventually, a text went through, and he and his father managed to meet up at a hotel near Fenway-as his father was on the northwest side, while Charlton was on the southeast corner, and no public transportation was running, Charlton had to walk there. “It was weird, because you were walking around and saw just regular people who were there for the marathon, and didn’t really know what was going on,” he said. “It was just kind of a weird experience, because you just saw this bomb go off, and there’s just people who are kind of going about their day. It was bizarre.”

At the hotel, Charlton and his father met up with his friend, another BC student who had been running behind him. “I had a buddy who was running, and he was behind me-so we were kind of bookends to the explosion,” he said. “He got caught by the police, who said, hey, the race is over. So he was pushed back, and he and his mom-they’re both okay-they came to our hotel.” He also got the email from the Campus School with a GoogleDoc, asking runners to check in for themselves and for any others who were okay but didn’t have access to a phone or computer.

“We just ordered room service,” he said. “Lots of ice cream.”

Eric Marro

Eric Marro, BC ’11, was through the 25 mile marker when he hit a crowd. Running his first Boston Marathon, Marro had come within less than a mile of his goal. All around him, people were elbowing their way through the crowd to get to the finish line.

“We were all in a daze,” Marro said. “I stood around for a little while-it’s all kind of hazy now just thinking back. I stood there for a little while and I wanted to know what is going on. I wanted to finish.”

A police officer came through the crowd and told the runners they wouldn’t be letting anyone through. He didn’t say why, but by that point the news of the explosions had spread.

One of Marro’s friends had hopped in to the race to run the last few miles together. Marro used his friend’s phone to get the word out that he was safe. They both then turned around and walked the five miles back to the BC campus. He was greeted by hugs and relief when they finally made it to a friend’s Mod.

Although he doesn’t know when he’ll do it, Marro is certain he will go back and finish the race.

“I’m going to finish it because there’s no way I’m not going to at this point,” Marro said. “I was running for my Mom who’s a breast cancer survivor of 15 years, but now it’s more than that. Now it’s not just for her, not just for all the training I put it in but for what happened that day. It wouldn’t feel right to just give up. Many people see the Boston Marathon in this area as one of those things people put on their bucket list, it’s something that people come to school here and they’re like that’s awesome I want to do it, it’s probably the happiest day in the area and now it’s just about finishing for that and saying we’re not giving up. Nobody is going to stop that from happening. Whether it’s me or whether it’s 12,000 other people or however many end up walking or running or doing whatever on Friday, it’s more about not giving up and not letting them win, whoever decided to do this.”

Bryan Corcoran

Bryan Corcoran, A&S ’15, was right around the corner when the bombs went off.

He had completed the marathon around 2:10 p.m. with a time of 3 hours and 26 minutes, and after walking around with his friends, he was ready to leave. “We had just finished taking pictures and were walking down stairs into the [Arlington] T stop when he heard some sort of boom, or-we weren’t really sure what it was-we assumed it was probably an accident, construction, maybe a truck,” he said. “Then there were state troopers and police officers in the T stop, and all of a sudden they said, it’s closed, everyone get out.”

After he left the T stop, Corcoran said that some people were running, but most just looked confused. “We walked across the street, but we had no idea that this was a bomb or anything-we were ready to leave, anyway, and just had the sense that-just get out of here,” he said.

The group was able to hail a cab on Comm. Ave., and take it back to BC. “While we were in the cab, we overheard that two bombs went off,” he said. “We were just very confused, and very glad that we got out of there at the right time.”

They got back to campus between 3:30 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. “I was with my parents, and there was just a general sense of BC kids-just very confused,” he said. “As my parents were walking away, there were state troopers inspecting garbage cans right in front of Walsh … so my parents started crying and didn’t want to leave, but I told them that there was nothing they could do, nothing I could do … I just went upstairs with my friends and watched the news for an hour or two.” He said that the officers inspecting the trashcans outside Walsh didn’t give them any other information.

“You don’t really know what to do or say, after that happened,” he said. “If I had been 40 minutes slower, I could have been there. I could have seen it.”

Heights Editor Austin Tedesco contributed to this report.

April 18, 2013