Families of several local residents attending the Boston Marathon anxiously awaited news from the scene Monday as the cellphone communication became difficult and social networks were flooded with traffic.
Zach Lantin, a Berklee College of Music student from Egg Harbor Township, said he was near the finish line when the explosions happened.
“All of a sudden there was a huge explosion,” said Lantin, who took the train to Boston with a friend to watch the marathon. “We thought it was thunder at first. And then we he heard a second one a few seconds later. There were so many that were hurt. I saw a lot of people get injured by the finish line. A lot of people carried out runners, and one guy had a bad, torn-up knee.”
Lantin added that he was stunned to see such violence at the usually joyful Patriot’s Day events in Boston.
“It was a really shocking experience,” he said. “It was such a huge change of pace. One second everyone was all happy and the next, it just turned to chaos.”
About 10 minutes before the explosion, Peggy Jewitt, 55, of Margate, finished the marathon, posting a time of 3:57:24. She later walked through the area where finishers were being corralled and was in the midst of greeting her son, A.J. Jewitt, 26, also of Margate — who had come with three of his friends to cheer her and her friend running the race — when the first explosion occurred.
A.J. Jewitt said that in the corner of his eye he saw the second explosion go off about two blocks from where they had been standing.
“It got really quiet as people paused to take in what happened,” he said. “And then everyone ran in different directions.”
Jewitt said as police officers ran to the site of the explosion, he, his mother and friends — all of whom were uninjured — began running in the opposite direction.
“There was nothing to stick around and watch,” he said.
Patricia Librizzi, of Galloway Township, had crossed the finish line about 10 minutes before the explosions and was walking back to her hotel, said her husband, Tom Librizzi.
“I just talked with her five minutes ago,” Tom Librizzi said about an hour after the explosions. “She’s OK. She’s all right, and the group she ran with was OK. … She has done it before, and it’s usually safe. You worry about making it 26 miles through the race. The last thing you think about when you get to the finish line is a bomb going off.”
After a pause, he continued, “I’m at a loss for words right now.”
Monday was the eighth time Carole Donohue, of Middle Township, ran the Boston Marathon, said her husband, Tim Donohue. She finished about 15 minutes before the two explosions, he said.
“Luckily, she’s a fast runner,” he said.
While he spoke on the phone Monday evening, she made calls to friends and family. He went to Boston to help her and provide support, and not run.
Tim Donohue was waiting for her near their hotel when he heard an explosion, followed about five seconds later by another explosion.
“It wasn’t, like, ‘Holy crap, that’s a bomb,’ ” Tim Donohue said. “It was like, ‘Wow, what is that?’ ”
“It was a huge relief,” he said, meeting his wife shortly afterward at their hotel.
The immediate response from friends and family asking about Carole was overwhelming, he said.
“You want to know how many people care, when something like this happens,” he said.
Carole Donohue had also written on her Facebook profile, “I am safe ... thank you all for concern.”
Runner Eric Schrading, a longtime triathlete from Galloway Township, wrote on his Facebook profile that he finished the race and was about two blocks away from the site of the explosions.
“As soon as I heard the sounds, I knew it was not good,” he wrote.
As soon as he reunited with his companion, they left the city.
“We listened to news reports on the way out of Boston, and it breaks my heart to think of the families and little kids that just an hour ago I was high-fiving,” he wrote.
Patricia Mader, 62, of North Cape May, said her son, Michael, a runner in the marathon, and several other friends and family members were in Boston. She received a text saying everyone was OK but had not yet spoken with her son on the phone.
“It’s a big time relief,” she said, “because my daughter and my granddaughter and my neighbor’s daughter are all up there, too.”
Michael’s father, Joseph Mader, 66, also of North Cape May, said his son hadn’t suffered any injuries and was apparently away from the scene of the explosion.
Bonnie Johnson, 51, of Egg Harbor Township, ran the Boston Marathon last year and said runners join the crowd at the finish line after they finish.
“There are sections you go to, to meet your family,” she said. “It’s all very organized.”
Johnson was concerned about Patricia Librizzi and was relieved to hear from her that she was all right, but was locked down in her hotel.
“She said they were all fine; it was just mayhem,” Johnson said.
As for what the event could mean for local races in the future, Steve Del Monte, race director for the Atlantic City International Triathlon, Tri the Wildwoods Triathlon and 5K, and the upcoming Escape the Cape Triathlon and Aquabike, said that “this is the thing. It's impossible, and I mean impossible, to prepare for something like that.”
“Never in a bazillion years would you ever expect something like this to happen there,” Del Monte said. “I mean, it's a running race, for (Pete's) sake. It's not like the World Trade Center or something. It's people coming together to celebrate an achievement in their lives. ... You're talking about huge galleries of people all over the place, and all it takes is one (person) who's depressed or whatever to do something so stupid.”
Del Monte said security probably would not be an issue for the Escape the Cape race, because the Delaware River and Bay Authority and U.S. Coast Guard would be involved.
But overall, he said, maybe the solution is to have restricted access to the finish line.
“You couldn't do it for the entire course, but the finish line. Have patdowns and things like they do at City Hall and in schools,” he said. “The way I would combat it is to come back next year bigger and better and with even more runners. Show whoever did this that nothing is going to stop us.”
Tim Donohue, for one, believed that such events have been altered forever.
“What drives people to do something like this?” Donohue said. “It’s just the way it (terrorism) changes your life. Every marathon will be like going though airport security.”
Staff writers Derek Harper, David Weinberg, Hoa Nguyen and Michelle Brunetti Post contributed to this story.
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