BOSTON - MARATHON-SCENE (SHNS) -- Runners and spectators describe the terror of the explosions at the Boston marathon: "It was 9/11 allover again," said one shaken spectator, who was desperate to find her boyfriend in the aftermath. 1,000.
When the first bomb went off, Tawni Gomes of Ventura, Calif., was standing at the finish line, waiting any second to see that familiar face. She knew from Boston’s athlete tracking system that her friend Stacey Stapleton, of Camarillo, was close to the end.
Then came the explosion.
“It was 9/11 all over again because I didn’t know what was going on,” said Gomes, her voice breaking with emotion.
Gomes spoke from a hotel near the finish, where she and others remained on lockdown following the blasts that killed at least two people.
“Police said, ‘Get out, get out get out,’ and everybody just ran,” she said. “I don’t even know where I ran, I just followed the crowd.”
Meanwhile, Gomes’ boyfriend Paul Rehder, a doctor from Camarillo, began working on victims at the nearby medical tent where he had been situated.
Rehder had run Boston in 1979, and Gomes had convinced him to volunteer at the race. This was Gomes’ first time at Boston, and she and Rehder had gone to cheer on Stapleton and other members of Vendurance Running Tribe, her Ventura-based run club.
A couple of hours after the race, Gomes had yet to see her boyfriend, but the couple had exchanged texts and knew the other was OK.
“Thank the good Lord I was on the left side. It went off and I screamed,” Gomes said.
News video footage shows the first explosion went off near the right.
Stapleton, minutes from the finish, was diverted off the course along with the other runners and not allowed to finish. But Gomes learned through Stapleton’s husband she was safe.
Gomes said she and others in the hotel weren’t allowed to leave because it was considered part of the crime scene.
“I’m pretty shaken up,” Gomes said. “I’m safe, but it’s pretty scary.”
Veteran marathoner Lisa McClellan, 48, of Simi Valley, was uninjured in the explosions.
The mother of there young children said she had just crossed the finish line and was getting her belongings when she looked back “and there was an explosion and 20 seconds later, a second explosion.”
She was a block away from the first explosion. “It was really, really loud. It shook the ground,” she said. “I knew immediately that something wasn’t right and I instinctually started walking away. People were confused. They weren’t sure what happened.”
“It’s absolutely awful,” she said of the explosions. “It’s frustrating and confusing and absolutely heartbreaking that anyone could do something like this. I just can’t wrap my brain around it.”
Tearing up, she said that had she crossed the finish line a few minutes later, she could have been seriously injured or killed.
McClellan, who writes a blog, http://www.runwiki.org, and her husband, a Navy diver who was in Boston to support her in the marathon, will be home Tuesday.
Camarillo resident Jack Redmond, 67, had just stepped over the finish line when a bomb exploded behind him.
“He felt as if his stepping over the finish line caused the explosion,” said his wife, Sharon Redmond. “It was just utter chaos.”
There were cabs sitting near the end of the finish line and Jack hailed one down.
“Since he had planned on just jumping in a cab that’s what he did, otherwise he might not have been able to get out of there because it was just crazy,” said Sharon Redmond. “The timing was just incredible.”
Sharon Redmond was teaching her fourth-grade class at Sacred Heart School in Ventura and hadn’t heard about the bombs, so she wondered why her husband kept calling her, but every time she picked up, no one was there.
“I kept trying to call him back and no luck,” she said.
Finally, she was able to reach him. “The first thing he said was ‘I’m fine.’”
Sharon found that odd and replied: “OK? And he said: ‘Do you know what’s happened?’ I said, no.”
He filled her in and Sharon grabbed a computer and began calling family members to let them know he wasn’t injured. The school principal realized that she couldn’t concentrate and sent her home.
“I’m shaken,” she said with a TV news station audible in the background. She said she’s praying for the other families.
Glenn Fout, 51, had finished the marathon and walked back to his hotel three blocks away when he and his cousin heard the explosions, seconds apart.
“We didn’t know what they were. Shortly after we heard sirens and what really alerted us were people outside of Boston asking us if we were OK,” said Fout, of Ojai.
“I must have sent 100 texts in an hour.”
He added that the incident has ruined the festive mood he and his fellow runners should be feeling.
“This is supposed to be a time for celebration for runners who had a good day, but you can’t really celebrate now,” Fout said.
Melissa Hernandez, of Oxnard, said the race had gone off without a hitch. Unlike her first time running Boston during a heat wave in 2012, Monday’s weather was cool and slightly breezy, Hernandez said.
She and running partners Adam Rossi, also of Oxnard, and Steve Arce, of Malibu, had just gotten into a cab and were headed back to their hotel when they learned of the explosion from a phone call.
It was Hernandez’s husband, checking to see if she was OK.
Back at the hotel, “We turned on the TV and saw all that devastation,” said Hernandez, reached by phone from her hotel.
Until then, the race had been so perfect, she said.
“The crowd was supportive and cheering and one group had trampolines and Adam jumped on it for a minute. We were just having fun,” Hernandez said. “That’s what is devastating about this.”
All three runners finished in 3 hours, 46 minutes, or just before 2 p.m. The explosion took place about an hour later, officials said.
Jean Cowden Moore of Moorpark met her children in Boston to cheer on her husband, David, who ran the marathon. She had left the area with her daughters when she got a call from her son explaining what happened.
“The first thing he said was, ‘we’re OK,’” said Moore, who is a reporter for the Star.
When she shared the news with her daughters, they started crying.
“I was so relieved that David was OK but then I realized so many other people weren’t OK,” she said.
As more information is coming in about the incident, Moore said she is worried about her husband, who is a sports writer for USA Today and went back to the scene.
Ventura resident Erica Kam, 19, spoke with her mother Christine shortly after Monday’s explosion. Erica was at Ventura College waiting for her next class when her mother called.
“Her first words were, ‘I couldn’t finish,’” Erica said. “She told me it looked like Armageddon,” Kam said.
This was her mother’s first time running in the Boston Marathon and had prepared for eight years, Kam said. Christine was at mile marker 26, about five minutes away from the finish line, when the explosion occurred.
Kam said her mother, who typically never walks during a run, started slowing down before the explosion occurred because her knees started to hurt. Had her mother not slowed her pace, she may not have been able to phone her daughter, Kam said.
“I feel like an angel was looking after her,” she said.
She added that her mother was devastated at the thought that none of the runners were going to receive medals because the Boston Athletic Association said there was no way for them to determine who finished the race.
Her mother plans to return to Ventura on Wednesday.
Marie Lakin of Ventura said she and her daughter were sightseeing near the finish line about 40 minutes before the explosions.
The women decided to take the subway to eat lunch elsewhere because the area was too crowded.
She hadn’t heard about the explosions until she started receiving text messages from her husband asking if she was OK.
“This is a beautiful town, I really love it here, so I am sorry this happened,” said Lakin, 53.
Lakin is in Boston visiting her 22-year-old daughter, Amber, and plans on going to New York City by train. While she is concerned about overall safety, the women aren’t changing their plans.
“It makes me really sad and I wish the world was a better place,” she said.