***** NOTE: Reproduction of any photographs is strictly prohibited unless you contact me first *****
My alarm clock went off at 4:30 a.m. Normally I’m not much of a morning person and didn’t fall asleep until after midnight, but by some miracle I didn’t hit the snooze button and got ready. The plan was to take the 5:23 a.m. train out of Providence to South Station, and meet up with Monica at Dillons on Boylston Street…..however I had never been to the Providence Amtrak station, and only saw ticket machines for Amtrak and not MBTA. I didn’t see any ATM machines either, which posed a problem of buying a ticket on board since I only had $2 on me. Ugh. It was 5:15 a.m, and the next Amtrak train didn’t leave until 7 a.m., getting into South Station at 8 a.m. or so.
Sooooo I hopped back in the car and wasted $5 at the parking garage for 15 minutes, and headed up to Boston. I arrived at Copley Place/Marriott around 6:15 a.m. and headed over to Boylston to the finish area to get some early morning photographs.
The link to my full set of photos is here: http://www.danarouleauphotography.com/home/?page_id=2546
Getting there early was pretty cool. I love Boston in the early morning before everyone is up and about. I got to see workers setting up and walked on the course a bit to take some photographs. There were hoards of runners on Stuart Street as well as Boylston Street heading to the shuttle buses. There was a buzz in the air as people were excited and happy, yet overall it was pretty relaxed. Work crews were working on getting the course ready. There was a police presence, but not nearly like it would be 4 hours later.
It was a cool/crisp morning with temps around 35 degrees in Boston. I had dressed for later in the day when it would be around 60 degrees, so I had a light jacket and long sleeve shirt, along with my Nikon D3s and 24-120mm F4 lens. I had debated bringing just a few prime lenses, but the 24-120mm excels at events like these. Having a little more focal length would be nice, though.
Monica and Bruce (Bruce couldn’t make it to Boston as he is in training this week) live in Billerica, so she took the train into North Station and met me at the corner of Mass Ave and Boylston around 7:30 a.m. The restaurants/bars open at 8 a.m., so we walked around a bit to warm up and wait for Dillons to open up.
The game plan was to hang out and eat/drink at Dillons up until it was time for the race….and apparently you can order alcoholic beverages and non-breakfast food at 8 a.m., which was a new one for me. So, I ordered a Sam Adams and a cheeseburger. It was gonna be a good day.
After about an hour and a half and a couple of beers, we left Dillons to scope out the race route and where we wanted to stand. We ultimately ended up staying on the (north) side of Boylston as there were less people up by the last turn, where we stood for a couple of hours. At first it seems like a good spot until we realized the porta potties were on the other side of the road. The barriers were officially closed off a little before the race came through, and there was no crossing the street…..so we were stuck on that side for the remainder. There were a ton of police around, both on bikes and on foot.
As the race drew closer to Boston, more and more people were lining the roads….a stark contrast to when I had photographed the Mt. Washington Road Race and could freely move about the Auto Road to take photos. As the runners came in, we were pretty wedged in and it was difficult to actually photograph anything, but I managed.
Around 12:15 or so, after the elite men and women had both come through, we decided to walk down toward the finish line and find something to eat. Places were absolutely PACKED with people, and trying to get a table outside or near a window was futile. We ended up at Pizzeria Uno and headed into the bar for a beer; the wait was two hours for a table outside, so we finished our beers and headed back out…..standing up to eat at the bar wasn’t really appealing, and we wanted to see more of the race, hence the reason for being there in the first place.
We then walked down past the finish line, took a left on Dartmouth Street and headed west up Newbury Street. It was cool to walk down the middle of Newbury as we got closer to the marathon route. I figured we’d be able to get somewhat of a decent vantage point the further we got from the finish, but it was still packed along Commonwealth Ave where we stood for about 15 or so minutes before meandering our way back toward Newbury. Besides, we had to go to the bathroom and we found there were porta potties on Dartmouth/Newbury when we were heading out toward Commonwealth.
It was now around 2 p.m. and we were making our way slowly through the finish line area. I snapped a few photos of the Medical tent area, the section of road just behind the finish line where marathoners were looking tired but relieved, and of the finish. I remember thinking how nice it was…..clear skies with plenty of sun, decent temps as long as the wind didn’t kick up too much, and everyone in a good mood. We were still hungry though since we hadn’t eaten before, and decided to head back to Unos but sit inside…..after a 5 min wait, we got a table, and ordered a Chicago Classic (and more beer).
Sitting down was really great after being on our feet for over 4 1/2 hours. Even more surprising was Monica actually finishing both her breakfast and lunch (she ate more than I did for breakfast), and beverages. After we finished our pizza and beer, we were stuffed……I declared I wanted to go to the North End for cannolis/cupcakes/whatever, but take our time in getting there since neither of us were hungry now, so we’d head out and watch some more of the race.
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM. Um, WTF??? I was walking out of Pizzeria Uno in the glass breezeway when the first bomb went off, and Monica was behind me. I looked to my left and saw smoke billowing from the area not too far down from us. I made the comment to Monica that a bomb just went off, to which she replied “no, that wasn’t a bomb….you think?”
BOOOOOOOOOOOM, a second explosion goes off less than 10 seconds later (you can see the people above looking in that direction), louder than the first. It was surreal. Are more bombs going to be going off? Are there any right next to us? Total pandemonium in the immediate area ensues and people start yelling/screaming and knocking down barricades. I remember a spectator standing near me pushing me back and yelling “there’s fucking bombs going off, get out of here!” and running out of the area with everyone else. Not knowing if there were any other bombs, I start pushing Monica back into the breezeway at Unos, and security was pushing us back outside. After about 5 seconds and police screaming at everyone to get off the street and indoors, we were the last ones that security let back in.
In literally an instant, it went from a happy day with people cheering the runners on, to a war zone. Alarms in stores were going off. There were people on the ground all over while being attended to by police, EMT’s, firefighters and fellow spectators. Ambulances were racing up and people were being taken out on stretchers. K9 units were in the area in about a minute from the last explosion. It all happened so fast that people didn’t think, they just acted. We didn’t stay in Unos very long….maybe 15 seconds after the second explosion, and then I started scoping out the destruction with Monica in tow, making a Facebook post to let friends/family know what happened. Then I realized I had my camera in my hands, so I started photographing:
After a minute (I think) or so of wandering around the area, we were being herded down toward the first blast at Exeter and Boylston. I wasn’t too enthused about that prospect since we didn’t know if any more bombs were in the area. Then officers on that corner started yelling at us to head back in the other direction toward Ring Street, so we did. As we got closer to Ring Street, we were yelled at to head back down toward Exeter. We were getting frustrated as we literally had no place to go. Watching police officers thrust their bare hands into the garbage bins and frantically tearing everything out looking for explosive devices, and people laying all over the place on the ground isn’t something I’ll ever forget. Especially the person getting CPR that looked very similar to the Chinese exchange student who died.
At that time, I was unaware that the second bomb was actually near the intersection of Ring and Boylston; I thought both bombs had gone off near the starting line…..it was so loud when they went off it was hard to tell direction, and when I had walked out of Unos I saw the smoke from the first bomb toward the finish line and was looking at that.
Had we left the restaurant literally less than 2 minutes earlier, we possibly could have been directly in a blast zone, as we were going to head out and watch the race in that general area and eventually make our way out toward the North End.
We were funneled out to Exeter, where more people were down and being tended to at the corner of Newbury and Exeter. We then headed west down Newbury and then to Commonwealth, heading up to Mass Ave. The trains in the area were shut down, and tens of thousands of people were swarming the area trying to get out. Some people were crying, and others were borderline hysterical. Most everyone was on a cell phone trying to get in touch with others. It wasn’t total chaos in the sense that people were going completely insane, and left the area in a pretty calm manner. If another 1 or 2 bombs went off in the areas where everyone was on Newbury street, it would’ve been a mass trampling. Roads were being shut down and traffic diverted. All you heard were sirens, people, and more sirens. We weren’t sure if we could head over toward Huntington along Mass Ave to get back to my car as a lot of people were heading in the opposite direction and away, but we went anyway.
We finally made it down near Copley Place, where I had parked my car in the garage, and those roads were all blocked off except for Stuart Street leading out of Copley.
The Prudential was shut down, so we milled about for a few minutes near the entrance trying to figure out what to do next. More police on motorcycles showed up and started pushing everyone back, so we crossed the street over to where Copley is, and saw that people were able to drive out……so, we went to my car and left. Getting out of the garage took awhile as there were still thousands of people streaming through this area as well (I found out later that the Marriott at Copley was also shut down/evacuated). We had to stay single file on Stuart so that emergency vehicles could freely move in either direction, the off ramp from the highway onto Stuart was shut down as well as the on ramp to 90 west just around the corner that I normally take, and pretty much all roads north into that general area of Boston were shut down or being shut down. My GPS came to the rescue, and I was finally able to navigate over to 93 North….traffic was insane as two of three lanes were closed due to an accident in the tunnel. Out of the tunnel though, we were “home free” for all practical purposes with Monica using my cell phone to text Bruce…..and continued to see police from all surrounding areas/agencies coming into Boston.
Rather than go into a long and drawn out tirade on how we should not blame the particular tool being used for evil purposes but rather, the person, I think we can all agree on that we need to focus on tragedies as a whole. It doesn’t matter if 3 people, 30 people or 3,000 people were killed or what their ages are…it doesn’t matter if a gun, bomb, airplane, knife, etc are used….what matters is that it happened. There were hundreds of police officers all around and yet this bombing still took place. We cannot prevent evil, we cannot legislate evil from happening, but we can be assured that most people are good and do not have evil intentions. The sad reality is that the world is a dangerous place. On a day that should have been filled with happiness, laughter and self-inflicted pain from running 26.2 miles, it was anything but after 2:50 p.m…..and who knows for how long beyond that.
It’s a shame that there are few in this world who want to bring about these occurrences. And for what purpose or gain? None. Here in America we’re fortunate that incidents such as this are relatively few and far between, whereas in other parts of the world people deal with this on a routine basis. Frankly, I can’t really imagine what that has to be like to live in that way as once was enough for me. It’s one of those things where you can’t possibly explain it, you’d have to be there to understand. And I’m damn glad we ended up not going to eat at Max Brenner.
Many people bash police officers and the job they do, but I sure didn’t see anyone else diving into trash cans looking for potential bombs without regard for their own safety. Hats off to the Boston/State Police and Fire Departments, the National Guard on hand and the EMT/rescue personnel…..as well as citizens who stepped in to help the injured. They all took control of the situation quickly, and in a very widespread area.
Pray for those who were hurt or killed. Be vigilant, but not paranoid. Help others. Live your life. If you have loved ones, kids or anyone you care about, tell them you love them as life is short.