Eric Strand is a friend of ours from St. Louis, MO. We interviewed him on podcast episode 67. He crossed the finish line approximately 10 minutes before the first bomb exploded.
BOSTON—This was my sixth trip to the Boston Marathon. (My wife) Tami and I love the marathon weekend here. Everyone in the city embraces the race, even the cabbies who grumble about the street closures. Just like St. Louis knows its baseball, Boston knows marathon running—and maybe a bit about baseball. Weather conditions were very good with a light headwind that picked up to a stiff breeze as we made the turn on to Boylston (Street).
Crowds were excellent, about three or four deep the entire length of the run down Boylston from Hereford to the finish. Tami, my mom, aunt, uncle and some local Boston friends were camped out along Hereford about a half mile from the finish. Their plan was to watch me run by and then walk back to the hotel to meet up. We are staying near Tufts Medical Center, so they had to head in the direction of the finish line.
As I approached the finish, they had the second wave runners go to the left and the third wave runners to the right side of the finish line. I was in the second wave. My son pointed out that the bomb was probably already planted a few feet away as I ran by about 10 minutes before the first explosion.
As you cross the finish line, they lead (you) on a long walk to ward off the possibility of cramping with enticements of water, Gatorade, Mylar blankets and medals to keep you moving. I made my way down Boylston to pick up my drop bag. The mood in the chutes was upbeat; you don’t finish this race and put that medal on without some sense of accomplishment. That all changed with the first explosion. We all looked back and immediately saw the plume of smoke. The guy next to me who I had been chatting with wondered if it was part of a celebration. I knew immediately something bad had happened.
With the second explosion, Boston’s finest started calmly moving the runners down Boylston toward the Boston Common. I was surprised by the calm and quiet for those first few minutes. And then the city just lit up with flashing lights and the sound of sirens from all directions. At that moment I started wondering which direction my family had taken to get back to the hotel.
All sorts of thoughts go through your mind in those few moments from best case to worst case. Did Tami walk down Boylston toward our hotel? Cell service was spotty and my phone, which had been in my drop bag ran out of battery as I shuffled, walked and then ran back to the hotel. To my surprise, Tami was in the hotel room having just arrived before me. They had taken a route south of the Prudential Center, heard the explosions and had been trying to track me down. Not long after we heard a third loud explosion … apparently from the JFK Library. They are reporting it as being caused by a mechanical issue, but it sounded very much like the first two blasts.
We found a place to grab dinner and saw at least 40 emergency vehicles with lights on go past. Helicopters buzzing all night. SWAT team at the entrance to the Tufts emergency room across from our hotel. 100+ calls/emails/tweets/FB posts from family/friends checking in on us.
Very sad day. I have never had a finisher’s medal that meant so little … or so much. The Boston Marathon has always been a celebration of the human spirit. Yesterday it turned into a test of that spirit. I can’t tell you how proud I am of how the city and the emergency workers have responded. Boston will be OK, and we will be back next year.