The first moments: Reliving the Boston Marathon bombing
FILE - In this April 15, 2013, file photo, blood from victims covers the sidewalk on Boylston Street, at the site of an explosion during the 2013 Boston Marathon in Boston. At right foreground is a folding chair with the design of an American flag on the cover. A federal grand jury in Boston returned a 30-count indictment against bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Thursday, June 27, 2013, on charges including using a weapon of mass destruction and bombing a place of public use, resulting in death. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
This photo released Friday, March 21, 2014, by the Richard family shows daughter Jane Richard wearing prosthetic leg fitted the preceding week in Boston. Jane and her mother were injured when a bomb exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Her brother, Martin Richard, was one of three people killed in the bombings. The 118th Boston Marathon is scheduled for April 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Richard Family)
FILE - This photo provided by Bruce Mendelsohn shows one of the sites of two bombs detonated during the 2013 Boston Marathon in Boston on Monday, April 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Bruce Mendelsohn) MANDATORY CREDIT: BRUCE MENDELSOHN
FILE - In this Monday, April 15, 2013 file photo provided by Ben Thorndike, people react to an explosion at the 2013 Boston Marathon in Boston. Since Monday, Boston has experienced five days of fear, beginning with the marathon bombing attack, an intense manhunt and much uncertainty ending in the death of one suspect and the capture of the other. (AP Photo/Ben Thorndike, File)
In this photo provided by The Daily Free Press and photographer Kenshin Okubo, Boston Marathon bombing victim James Costello staggers away in his torn clothing from the finish area in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. (AP Photo/The Daily Free Press, Kenshin Okubo) MANDATORY CREDIT
On the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, Boston Globe reporters Scott Helman and Jenna Russell have published a book about the attack, the repercussions and the intense manhunt for the alleged bombers. What follows is an excerpt from Long Mile Home, reprinted here with permission from Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Boston Globe Media Partners LLC, 2014.
That’s not a cannon, Boston firefighter Sean O’Brien thought when he heard the first explosion.
Maybe a transformer? He was standing in front of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a couple blocks before the finish line. “Obie, that’s a bomb,” the firefighter next to him said. Right then, a second explosion tore through the sidewalk across the street. The first blast had happened in front of Marathon Sports, at 671 Boylston Street. The second explosion, just twelve seconds later, detonated one block to the west, in front of Forum restaurant, at 755 Boylston. Both spots were packed with afternoon crowds. Those who could ran for their lives, away from whatever might happen next – a third bomb? A fourth? Many, like O’Brien, thought the first blast was some kind of accident. When the second echoed, they knew it was something much worse.
O’Brien’s thoughts raced first to his wife and his four daughters. In an instant, he sorted through his recent interactions with them and found them acceptable. No fights, no harsh words would stand among their final memories of him. Then he moved forward, over the barricade toward the bomb scene, the wounded walking toward him in a daze. He could smell the burning. He looked back across the street, near the spot where he’d just been standing, and saw a little girl’s bag, pink with flowers, abandoned on the sidewalk. That one’s next, he thought. I know it. He waited for the pink bag to blow up.
* * *
The first explosion had rippled the surface of Jason Geremia’s drink as he stood near the bar inside Forum. Conversations around him stopped midsentence. Smiles faded, replaced by looks of confusion. “What was that?” the bartender asked. The sound was loud, but far enough away that it wasn’t clear what had caused it. Jason turned to look at the front entrance and saw his friends Michelle and Jess standing in the doorway. He didn’t see Heather Abbott, who was supposed to be with them. Just then the second blast blew his friends into the bar. They were stumbling forward, falling, as he grabbed them and pulled them to the back, away from Boylston Street and whatever had just happened. Everyone else was stampeding the same way.
* * *
Brighid Wall threw her 6-year-old son onto the ground when the second bomb exploded some 10 feet away to their right. She lay across him on the sidewalk, her pregnant belly beneath her, and looked back over her left shoulder at the dazed people covered with black soot. She saw a man struggling to stand up; she realized he was struggling because he was missing a leg. The urge to flee seized her then, pushing away shock and fear, and she scanned the ground, looking for the bag that held her car keys. She stood up. Her husband grabbed their son and nephew. A stranger picked up her 4-year-old daughter and they all ran into the Starbucks next door to Forum, blood and broken glass and spilled coffee under their feet. People were screaming but the children were silent – waiting, she realized, for someone to make them safe.
* * *
Searching in the smoke for one of his friends, Mike Chase came across a man holding 7-year-old Jane Richard in his arms. “We gotta do something here,” said the man, an off-duty firefighter named Matt Patterson. Chase, a high school soccer coach who had been watching the race, grabbed the belt Patterson had wrapped around the child’s thigh and pulled it tight. Her leg was in bad shape. Jane’s father, Bill Richard, was nearby, holding tight to his oldest son, Henry, who was not badly hurt. Chase looked down and saw his missing friend, Dan Marshall, kneeling on the ground over another little boy. Others bent to join him, trying to help Martin.
“My son, my son,” the stricken father said. There was nothing anyone could do.