Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Boston: First Hand Account from 99trumpets in "Running" on Reddit
I was/am volunteering there (am still there). I was at the Gatorade booth about 50ft past the finish. It had been such a happy day. I was holding two Gatorades out to runners looking right at the finish line, Suddenly a big BOOM, absolutely thunderous. I was looking right at it, huge plume of smoke that went halfway up the church, we all just stared, all the runners turned and stared. I thought, "That's not gunfire" (I've lived in Rio, I know gunfire). BOOM, another one, I said "That was an explosion" (duh, I know). Everybody started running. To give you the picture I was at the point where everybody has just stopped running and is savoring victory and EVERYBODY STARTED RUNNING AGAIN - something about this scene was absolutely surreal, to see all those exhausted runners who looked like they could barely walk, just all spring back into action simultaneously like that. Volunteers running too. People abandoning their spots and that's when I thought, "this is the real thing." Me and the other Gatorade girls kind of instinctively backed up till we bumped into the water truck. Bit of a panic for like 5 min because we didn't know if there would be more bombs. I remember thinking "not in my city, no". I remember thinking "I'm not going to leave." Real chaos for a while. Most volunteers left. They were carrying people into the med tent near me. (edit: someone asked - yes I saw the poor poor poor guy who got his feet blown completely off. god fucking dammit.) (another edit: I wanted to get closer to help - I know a fair bit of first aid - but they would not allow it. They didn't need me anyway, they had tons of EMTs and doctors anyway.) The cops needed waters so we ran waters up to the site. Then a cop yells "Get these tables out of the way" - the street had a loooooong center aisle of water tables and Gatorade tables, and the ambulances couldn't get in. We all started flinging the water out of the way, as quick as we could. There were only like 5 of us volunteers still there though (the rest had been told to leave) and like ten million tables. The crowd is watching us desperately hurling the waters to the side of the street and then the whole crowd starts LEAPING over the security dividers and helping us haul all the waters and tables out of the way. (edit: Guys were hurling those cartons of Poland Spring water bottles like big footballs!) I didn't start to cry till right then when everybody jumped to help.
We all got shepherded away then. But then I kept finding lost runners. It had gotten cold and everybody was wandering all over, streets closed, sirens everywhere, and you'd find some skinny runner girl (who'd just finished a marathon fer chrissake!), shivering and lost and in tears, and no phone and can't find her family. I found like 4 of those runners and walked each to where they needed to be. Just spent over an hour with one who couldn't find her family. (edit: she was trying to hide how scared she was - her brother and dad wouldn't answer their cells - turned out she knew that they'd been right at the finish line. But they were ok, it was just the lines were jammed. She was super cool and calm and collected the whole hour we were trying to call them [on my phone]. Shivering in her running gear the whole time. Then the second he and her dad showed up, she fell apart.)
I've been watching this race since 1977. I grew up here. This is the first time I've volunteered.
I am going to go look for more runners now. Half the streets are shut and the subway's closed, runners can't find their bags or family or their way home. Update later.
edit: 2 hrs post blast. they've finally diverted all the runners two blocks over. The remaining ones are coming in, 2 blocks over, to see a more organized setup with the mylar blankets and some of the waters, and they seem not as freaked out because they didn't hear/see the blast - they were miles away. But everybody's still pretty confused and stunned. The subway being shut is a huge problem - nobody can get back to the hotels they're staying at. I just had to tell a runner that she was going to have to walk another mile or so to get to the Red Line because the Green Line subway is closed. Taxis can't get in because so many streets are closed. Also some hotels that runners were staying at were closed off, that were right near the blast site. (edit: 3 hotels were evacuated because of bomb scares.) I just came back home to recharge my phone since it became apparent one of the most useful things I could provide to runners was a working phone. I am typing this up while it charges. While on the T a woman told me there have been bomb scares all over the city, at Tufts Medical and at the footbridge by the Prudential and she said bomb went off at the JFK library. Whole subway car got quiet when she said that. Don't know if that's just rumors. I'm going to give my phone a half hour to recharge, then go back with more layers (I got chilly), to see if I can help with anything. I signed up to volunteer to help runners, dammit, and I'm going to go help runners.
edit2: Edit2 has been deleted, it revealed something private about another volunteer (before I realized this post was going to get so much attention) - I'll update later if I can.
edit3: it's night now. I ended up working runner's bag pickup area for the last 4 hrs. Runners were stopped on course at least back to mile 21. I'm talking to a cop right now who said all runners who were not yet in Boston were sent to Boston College in a big group to wait for bus pickups. As of 8:30pm apparently there are still "about 500" runners still stuck there waiting for buses. We have THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of bags here and can't figure out where the runners are. People's keys and phones are in the bags (we can hear the phones going off...) We've just spent 4 hrs trying to sort out 10,000 jumbled bags by bib number. They had to move the bags in a big frantic hurry and they got all jumbled. oh my god. you cannot imagine what a jigsaw puzzle this is. (I hurt my back, dammit) I found a pair of prosthetic feet that belong to one of the wheelchair racers. (Scott from Atlanta, I hope you got your feet back, I handcarried them myself to the VIP bag area.) It has become apparent that runners are still lost all over and stranded and are w/o their phones, keys, etc. We will be here all night with the bags since so many runners have not been able to pick up their stuff.
edit: 10pm - There's only me and 2 other volunteers left now and a bunch of BAA bigwig staff who are agonizing over things like, we have only 2 guys to stay overnight with 10,000 bags that are literally just lying on the street in heaps, and we didn't want to leave the 2 guys alone because there are no cops to help keep them safe, because all the Boston cops are elsewhere in the city checking out bomb scares. Finally at 9:30pm we managed to get some cops of our very own (might be Nat'l Guard? they're wearing camo, don't look like Boston cops). So I have headed home, will go back tomorrow early morning and stay all day. I know that reuniting runners with their bags is a little thing, but it is the thing that I can do to help, so that is what I am doing. I was going to take tomorrow off work to keep doing this; but just got an email that my work (New England Aquarium) is closed tomorrow in memoriam anyway. BTW the BAA (Boston Athletic Association, that organizes the marathon) guys are being so professional and trying to hold it together but you can see they are just heartbroken. It's strange, it's like we are focusing like crazy on stuff like "These bags over here are sorted all wrong!", so that we don't have to think about the people who died...
Also - earlier a French-speaking runner came zooming by who hadn't understood what happened. Didn't realize he'd been diverted and was looking for the finish line and didn't see it so he kept running! Almost ran away over the Mass Pike! We (or rather, the bag guy next to me) had to chase after him and jump in front of him to stop him. He was so confused, poor guy.