Suburbanite sports writer Tony Muller and his friend, Jackson resident Julia Fiorentino, were not far from the finish line when the two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon.
A group of eight runners from the Jackson area, including Suburbanite sports reporter Tony Muller, were among the runners in the vicinity of the finish line at the Boston Marathon on Monday when two bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring at least 145 others.
Muller, a Massillon resident, and Jackson resident Julia Fiorentino had just finished the race and were making their way through the long corridor where runners receive water, food and their finisher’s medal and pick up their gear bags, when the first explosion occurred in the stands along Boylston Street.
“We were probably about a tenth of a mile down and were going through the finisher’s area to get your food and your medal and there was a big boom,” Muller said. “There was a lot of smoke, but the Red Sox game was ending around that time and we thought, ‘Maybe it’s just something for the end of the game.’ But when you heard that, you turned around and looked to see and there was just white smoke everywhere.”
Fiorentino, who finished about five minutes ahead of Muller, was weaving her way along the corridor and spotted Muller behind her prior to the first explosion.
“I was with Tony right through finish line, maybe a few minutes ahead, and you have to walk through corridor to get water, heat blanket, medal and gear bags,” she recalled. “I was standing there and saw Tony, so that was good, and we were standing in line, waiting for the buses that had the gear bags. I’d say we had only gone about a tenth of a mile and we heard first big explosion. At first weren’t sure if it was a transformer or gas line, but then we heard second one about 15 seconds later and we knew it was something big.”
A third member of the group was further behind Muller and crossed the finish line about five minutes before the first explosion.
Once the second explosion hit, complete chaos broke out, Muller said.
“You could feel the force a little bit. There were people laying everywhere. People started panicking, you had cops in there telling you to get out of the area and no one really knew what was happening,” Muller said.
Runners were ushered out of the area, away from a location where they were supposed to meet up with friends and family members, and down a side street toward Boston Common, Fiorentino said.
She also recalled a friend who came to the race as a spectator telling her that the crowd was 12 to 15 people deep in many places along Boylston Street and in the vicinity of the finish line.
In the immediate aftermath of the explosions, Muller and Fiorentino headed back to her hotel, the Boston Marriott Copley Place Hotel, on foot. They were initially unable to get their text messages to go through with cell service in the blast area unstable, but back at the hotel they were finally able to get messages through to the other members of their group.
Page 2 of 2 - Businesses in the area remained closed for the rest of the day and after gathering at the hotel and making sure everyone was all right, they were able to get a taxi later in the evening to go outside town for dinner.
Fiorentino, a veteran runner with multiple marathons to her credit, expressed shock and amazement at the impact the blast had on what would normally be a day of celebration and achievement.
“You have all of these runners and this place were you’re supposed to be inspired and proud and this … it’s just so sad,” she said.
As Muller, Fiorentino and their friends remained in the city and saw the atmosphere on the streets the remainder of the day and into Tuesday, they saw people walking around trying to find relatives and still in shock from what they had seen. Muller also noted SWAT teams and a large number of police on the streets throughout the day and into Tuesday.
“There were a lot of people wandering around, trying to figure things out and some of the cell towers were shut down, so people couldn’t make calls,” Muller said.
The group, along with another group of running friends from Medina, stayed the night in Boston before driving back home Tuesday.