What I Saw at the Boston Marathon Bombings

Boston residents wonder if Patriots' Day will ever be the same again.


We love to celebrate our Revolutionary War heritage in Boston. We love it so much that we've created multiple holidays to commemorate key events in the war that you non-Bostonians have probably never heard of like Evacuation Day and Bunker Hill Day. The granddaddy of all these holidays is Patriots' Day as it is celebrated statewide instead of just the Greater Boston area. It's a day where people go to a Red Sox game that starts at 11 a.m., start drinking at 9 a.m., and encourage people in much better shape than them to run 26.2 miles all the way to Copley Square. It's a holiday where people celebrate Boston as much as they celebrate the Shot Heard Round The World with nifty reenactments by guys in colonial garb pretending to shoot the British.

Yesterday I passed on the reenactments (they're boring after you've seen them once) and headed to Copley Square to do what most Bostonians were doing: drinking at a bar with friends, complaining about the Red Sox bullpen, and cheering marathon runners while in a heightened state of inebriation. It's something I've done many times before and yesterday's Marathon Monday seemed like just another day of celebration. It was brisk out, so I grabbed a heavier jacket and my camera just before leaving.

Of course I never made it to the bar and ended up spending the evening covering a horrible tragedy. I cabbed it over to as close as I could to get to Copley Square and found a scene that was, at best, calmly chaotic. People were predominantly orderly and first responders appeared to have the situation largely under control, though they provided everyone, including journalists, with very little information as to what was going on. We were stuck at the corner of Newbury and Dartmouth for some time before we were moved two blocks away from the scene of the explosion.

Men in military fatigues and heavily armored SWAT teams were everywhere you turned. Adding to the bizarreness of what I was seeing was the large number of drunks that were in a strange state of terrorism-induced-soberness. People in Red Sox jerseys, clearly under the influence, were walking around in a daze next to lanyarded marathon volunteers. One kept muttering "Holy fuck dude!" while another clad in an Ortiz jersey fumbled with his phone presumably trying to call Mom and let her know he was OK.

As it became clear that we were not going to get any closer I retreated to the patio of a nearby bar to charge my phone. By now hundreds of marathon runners in space blankets were starting to make their way down the Commonwealth Avenue median. They looked like stunned refugees from outer space.

Few wanted to talk but those that did told me that they were pulled from the course around Mile 25 near Kenmore Square. The race was over and nobody was going to officially finish the race at that point. Many were understandably upset about the bombing and the ensuing cancelation of the race. These runners were too far away to hear or see the bombings on Boylston Street so their knowledge of the incident was limited. One runner I spoke with echoed the sentiments of many, saying they were told very little of what happened.

"They haven't told us much of anything," said runner Pat Hogan, 61, of Gig Harbor, Washington.

Others in the parade of distraught marathoners were frantically trying to get in touch with loved ones. One emotionally distraught runner, Frank Mairano, 66, of the Harbor Towers came up to me while I was charging my phone and asked if I could help find his wife. I told him we could try texting her but phones were useless because cell phone networks were overloaded. He then relayed to me his ordeal of being separated near the finish line from the friend he was running with. He was in rough shape but when we confirmed his wife was safe via text message he was overcome with joy and went on his way.

Inside the bar there was a mix of satisfied marathon runners, volunteers, journalists frantically trying to file or charge their equipment, and drunk people. Me and my fellow journo friends abandoned all hope of trying to cross the barriers to get to the press conference so we hunkered down at the bar to watch it. A drunk young couple kept talking loudly throughout the presser before shutting up after being repeatedly shushed. Outside a drunk young woman in a chicken outfit and Red Sox jersey was going back and forth between sadness and loud laughter.

Eventually I took off for a local Catholic shrine that does outreach during major public outdoor events. I found one of the priests talking outside with a handful of people. There were more cops and SWAT officers in military fatigues than people at this point. The Green Line was running again, albeit in a delayed manner, which is actually normal for the pesky old trolley.

The ride home on the oldest subway line in America to file was quiet and somber. Even the drunks on the train were sad. They didn't care about the Red Sox game that took place hours earlier. They just wanted to go home and hug their loved ones.

I did too. 

NEXT: St. Louis Board of Aldermen Vote to Reduce Penalties for Marijuana Possession, Jail Still an Option (UPDATED)

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  1. People in Red Sox jerseys, clearly under the influence, were walking around in a daze next to lanyarded marathon volunteers. One kept muttering “Holy fuck dude!” while another clad in an Ortiz jersey fumbled with his phone presumably trying to call Mom and let her know he was OK.

    Are you sure you are not just remembering being at Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS?

    1. Best sarcastic response to local tragedy so far. BUT CAN IT BE TOPPED?

      1. John wins DAYS of the internet for that one.

      2. a drunk young woman in a chicken outfit and Red Sox jersey was going back and forth between sadness and loud laughter.

        Sounds like a normal Saturday night at my house.

        1. Laughing out loud at that one.

        2. Yeah really, all women are bipolar.

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  2. drunks that were in a strange state of terrorism-induced-soberness

    Hate when that happens.

    1. Are you sure they were drunk and not just suffering from shock?

      1. The Beer-dispenser baseball hats probably gave it away.

  3. So it sounds just like how it was in New York on 9/11. My friend and I just walked dazedly to Carl Schurz Park and I remember him muttering over and over “those fucking bastards” while we watched the smoke billow out over Brooklyn.

    1. I was in Oklahoma City when that bombing happened. Had the same experience in class that day. Everyone just sort of sat there and stared at each other. I am not even sure the professor tried to lecture.

    2. I was freaked the fuck out on 9/11. I was in 6th grade in CA at the time, but my parents flew out to MA late the previous night and had a layover in NY that left at, like 6am. They got pictures of the towers in before their flight.

      I threw up a bit that day.

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    3. Not to go all Upper East Side on you, but you can’t see Brooklyn from Carl Schurz Park. Right?

      I was literally on the other side of the country – Hawaii – in those days, but my parents were off island for their anniversary (9/11/01 was their 25th). I found it odd that only some people at school were freaking out.

      1. You kinda can, right? Idk, I’ve never thought much about it. But hell, why not go FULL UES?

  4. There were more cops and SWAT officers in military fatigues than people at this point.

    IMHO, other than first responding to the injured, all these pigs provided nothing. I watched some video and I kept thinking, “that firetruck is trying to get up the street but this group of pigs is in the way.”

    1. And I guarantee you the military people were not armed. So they were basically there to get in the way and be potential targets.

    2. Yeah, most of the brownshirts just stood around while the EMS and Nat. Guard crews wrangled the barricades down.

      1. Someone has to yell “Nothing to see here, move along!”

  5. People in Red Sox jerseys, clearly under the influence, were walking around in a daze

    So in many ways it was just another day in Boston. That must have been at least somewhat comforting.

  6. So the latest news is that the bombs were pressure cookers full of gunpowder and shrapnel. Is the solution a total ban on pressure cookers, or limiting their size to no more than 7oz?

    1. Who really needs to cook more than 7oz of food anyway?

      1. No shit. Especially when you factor in the OBESITY EPIDEMIC.

      2. We can cure the obesity epidemic at the same time!

    2. Gunpowder. Clearly we need to ban bullets.

    3. Huh, CNN’s video contadicts its accompanying text. According to the video, FBI bomb expert says that while it’s too early to tell, the evidence may lean towards “domestic terrorism” because the pressure cookers are unusual devices and not the types of things used by people trained in Pakistan or Afghanistan…”

      Accompanying text:

      The U.S. government has warned federal agencies in the past that pressure cookers — airtight pots used to quickly cook or preserve foods — have been turned into bombs in parts of the world. A Department of Homeland Security memo called it “a technique commonly taught in Afghan terrorist training camps.”

      1. Christina Amanpor: “Homegrown terrorism whether it’s Jihadi or Extremist Nutters”.

        Uh, so Jihadis blowing up children by strapping a bomb to themselves or sticking it in a car park aren’t “Extremist nutters”?

        I’m going on record that anyone who intentionally targets random civilians in a crowd by blowing something up based upon a political beef is an “extremist nutter”.

  7. BTW, anyone know who won the marathon?

    1. canceled

    2. Lelisa Desisa Benti in 2 hours, 10 minutes and 22 seconds.

      1. Kenyans… I knew it.

  8. Saw this on FB earlier

    Some idiot that works for Fox tweets, essentially, “kill all muslims, they are to blame”, and liberals are having a field day with it, FAUX “News” and all.

    It’s funny to read some of the comments, and realize just how insane some people are:

    Considering that the bombings occurred in Boston, on tax day, it seems more likely that the terrorists will turn out to be anti-government Christian fundamentalist Tea Party types.

    I can’t even fathom the mind the can agree with criticism of a man for blaming one group of people without any evidence, then 2 seconds later blame another group without any evidence.

    Not to mention all blame the “right-wingers” have been getting by CNN, MSNBC, etc;

    1. The Left’s motto: “It’s different when we do it!”

    2. Should we compare the Tea Party demonstrations to the OWS demonstrations for them?

      Oh, those outa hand right wingers.

    3. Fortunately, most people seem to be handling it pretty well.

  9. Sometimes dude you just have to roll with it.


  10. Napolitano: No signs of ‘broad plot’

    Is it just me, or is that a horribly sexist way of saying they don’t believe this was perpetrated by women?

  11. It’s a day where people […] start drinking at 9 a.m.,

    Isn’t every day a day to start drinking at 9AM?

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  19. If you’re a “right wing” terrorist, why would you choose Patriot Day at Boston to bomb people? Aren’t the colonists who fought in those battles Aryan superheroes (in a way)? If you’re protesting tax day, why not blow up government buildings? Or the IRS?

    It’s a day that honors America. It would be easy to anticipate where the crowd would go or gather (ballpark, pub, marathon, etc). Pressure cooker bombs are commonly used in southeast Asia and Pakistan.

    If it looks like dog, barks like a dog, tastes like a dog, well, then it must be…… a cat?

  20. god bless them..
    sad dayes

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