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Tragedy hits Boston Marathon

Recounting day of terror

Residents in Boston  for race on Monday  discuss where they were, what they saw

  • For some in the Monadnock region, the Boston Marathon explosions hits very close to home.

    For some in the Monadnock region, the Boston Marathon explosions hits very close to home.

  • For some in the Monadnock region, the Boston Marathon explosions hits very close to home.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    For some in the Monadnock region, the Boston Marathon explosions hits very close to home.

    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

  • For some in the Monadnock region, the Boston Marathon explosions hits very close to home.

    For some in the Monadnock region, the Boston Marathon explosions hits very close to home.

  • For some in the Monadnock region, the Boston Marathon explosions hits very close to home.<br/><br/>

    For some in the Monadnock region, the Boston Marathon explosions hits very close to home.

  • For some in the Monadnock region, the Boston Marathon explosions hits very close to home.
  • For some in the Monadnock region, the Boston Marathon explosions hits very close to home.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • For some in the Monadnock region, the Boston Marathon explosions hits very close to home.
  • For some in the Monadnock region, the Boston Marathon explosions hits very close to home.<br/><br/>

Tim Steele snapped a photograph of his wife, Elizabeth, his sister-in-law, Jennifer Saxe, and Saxe’s two children in the bleachers at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday. The explosion that came moments later has since reverberated across the world.

In the moments leading up to the blast, he had walked up the bleachers and glanced back down Boylston Street, hoping to see his brother-in-law, Andrew Fletcher, running down the last 10th of a mile. When he didn’t see him coming, Steele turned toward the finish line just in time to see and feel an explosion on the other side of the street. A flash of light and then smoke engulfed the fences, flags, buildings and, most terrifying of all, the people on the sidewalk.

Steele, a resident of Hancock, then snapped more pictures, ones in sharp contrast to the previous scenes of a happy family and determined runners.

The smoke cleared a bit, revealing a disturbing scene of blood, bodies on the ground and pandemonium at the finish line, which Steele captured on his digital camera.

“Kids and people were crying. People were shaking. I couldn’t believe it. It was surreal,” Steele said Tuesday afternoon at his company’s headquarters in Peterborough.

Three people were killed by what police have since determined were handmade bombs, one of which was placed in a garbage can near the finish line. According to published reports, nearly three-quarters of the runners who participated in the race had already crossed the finish line at the time of the first explosion.

Three people are dead, and more than 100 were injured either directly or indirectly by the blasts.

Steele and his family were uninjured, including his brother-in-law Fletcher, who they met up with hours later back in Concord, Mass., where Fletcher and Saxe live.

Before police hurried everyone out of the bleachers, Steele snapped his third photo, just after the second explosion — a shot looking down Boylston, but blinded by the intensity of the smoke. Steele said he was waiting for a third explosion to go off underneath the very bleachers he was on, but none came.

From there, his party retreated to the nearby Boston Public Library.

“I went out to try and help, but got pushed back inside the library,” Steele said. “The volunteers and police got people corralled safely. A lot of the spectators, I have to say, really held their heads .”

Police had shut down cell phone service reportedly out of concern for another detonation device going off, so Steele and his family had to wait for hours for the text message that eventually came from Fletcher, saying he was alright.

Like 9/11, Steele said this day will stick in his mind forever, like a photo captured.

“Things like that tend to go in slow motion,” Steele said. “My memory of people getting hit against the fence is like it’s in slow-mo . It’s going to change the way life is in Boston and in America.”

Steele, however, said there are some things fear can’t take away.

“I wouldn’t let someone steal something like that from me. I will go back,” he said about the Boston Marathon.

Ross and Lisa Ramey

For close to two hours, Ross Ramey had no idea if his wife, Lisa, was safe.

While less than a mile stretch of Boylston Street separated the two, there was no way of knowing if the other had been injured in the bombings. And there was no way to get to each other.

Ross was running the marathon for the first time, doing so as part of the fundraising effort of the Melanoma Foundation of New England team. Lisa was working the Gatorade station about 100 yards past the finish line — something she’s done for the previous 10 years.

Right around the time of the bombings, at about 2:45 p.m., Ross was set to finish. But he was a little behind his pace, putting him about 1 kilometer away when the bombs went off.

“If I was running as expected or projected, I would have been there,” said Ross.

Lisa had received a text message that he made it through Heartbreak Hill, and at that point she knew her husband would finish..

“I expected Ross at any moment,” said Lisa. “It was all going just right.”

Then there was a loud explosion. Lisa heard it and felt it, but was not sure what had happened. Then the second bomb detonated.

But with runners still crossing the finish line and in need of assistance, Lisa stayed at her post. Once all the runners had passed through that were not stopped along the course, she had a chance to think and that is when she feared the worst.

“We saw this gray puff that looked like it was coming from a war zone. It looked like a picture from a news story in Iraq,” said Lisa. “There was a fear that I didn’t want to see Ross there.”

With such a short distance left, Ross knew he was going to finish. Then he saw some runners coming back in his direction. He found it odd since it was a closed course and no one was allowed back on once their race was over.

“Nobody was really clear with what was going on at that point,” said Ross. “We didn’t have any direction as to what was going on or how to proceed.”

Then he got word of the explosions. Ross scrambled to find someone with a phone so he could call his wife. It went right to voicemail.

“I was concerned about Lisa’s safety,” said Ross. “At least if she picked it up, she’d know I was OK.”

After leaving the area around the finish line, Lisa received Ross’s message around 3:30 p.m.

“It was the best voicemail of my life,” Lisa said.

Lisa texted the couple’s three children to let them know both were fine. But since Ross had to return the phone to its owner, Lisa had no way of returning his call.

So Ross made the one and a half mile walk, still unsure of his wife’s safety and it wasn’t until both reached the family reunion area at the Boston Common that Ross would stop worrying.

“I finally got to the corner of Arlington and Boylston, and saw her by Comm. Ave,” said Ross. “The best reunion ever. I was just so relieved that she was OK.”

The Rameys had a room at the Taj Hotel on Arlington St., but they had to show police the room key and get confirmed on the list of guests before they could gain entry.

And it wasn’t until later that night that the events of the day set in. But it won’t keep them from going back to the Boston Marathon next year. Lisa plans to be at the Gatorade stand next year and Ross said he would run again.

Loretta Donelan

Peterborough resident Loretta Donelan, who is a freshman at Emerson College and lives in a dormitory on Boylston Street in Boston, stood at the exact spot of detonation about an hour before the explosion went off.

The blasts served as eye-opening experience, a “you’re not in New Hampshire anymore” moment.

And a surreal experience for Donelan, having been separated by the blasts by a mere 60 minutes.

“I was in my dorm, and the first thing I heard of it was a text from my friend asking if I was at the marathon,” Donelan said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It was really scary.”

In her first year as a college student away from Peterborough, Donelan said she felt a chill when she heard about the bombs. Her sense of security was in question, living just a few blocks away from where the explosions took place.

Her first instinct after hearing of the blasts was to text her family, letting them know she was safe in her dorm and unharmed.

The same couldn’t be said for all Emerson students, however. Seven students were injured by the explosions, according to Emerson administrators. She said the college informed her that all of the students were treated at area hospitals and released.

A comforting moment, Donelan said, came when students on her floor began to congregate in the common room when phone service was shut down. Friends from home also reached out via social media to make sure she and other friends in Boston were alright.

“I noticed on Facebook that there was a huge outreach from ConVal [High School] and from home for friends in Boston,” she said.

Emerson College did not hold school Tuesday. It also heightened its security measures, Donelan said, noting that students were permitted to leave campus, but had to go through certain protocols to clear security.

Bryant Hoard

Bryant Hoard and his girlfriend, Joanna Greene, didn’t see the first explosion, but they did hear it. The two were on Boylston Street walking away from the finish line, where they had been 10 minutes before the blast to watch Greene’s brother, Michael Brewster, come across.

Hoard and Greene were unsure at first what had happened, but then saw the smoke billowing up and heard the terrified screams in the streets. Greene had begun to run back toward the finish line when Hoard grabbed her and forced her to stop. That’s when the second explosion went off, right in front of them.

“It was like a scene from the news,” Hoard said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Hoard, a Rindge native, graduated from Conant High School in 2007. After two years at Keene State College, he transferred to Regis College in Weston, Mass. He and Greene met at Margarita’s in Medford, where the two work.

His first instinct was to get his girlfriend to safety, which to him meant away from the throng of people frantically running in every direction. They were ushered into a nearby building and took cover there for a few minutes.

Greene was able to get a call of to her mother, who was at the finish line with Brewster, letting her know she was safe before cell phone service was shut down. No one in Greene’s family was injured in the first blast, her mother told her.

Hoard made a call to his mother in Rindge, who hadn’t even heard what was happening yet.

When Hoard and Greene were able to leave the building, they found themselves wandering around aimlessly for about two hours before they made their way back home. Hoard lives in Everett, Mass., now and commutes to Weston.

Hoard said that the whole scenario is still sinking in for him. The fact that they were that close is mind boggling.

“When I look back, the only thing I was focused on was getting my girlfriend to safety,” Hoard said. “In that moment, you just feel such insecurity. Like a bomb could go off right next to you. I don’t know how people ran toward the explosions, but it is absolutely amazing that their first instinct was to go help people who were injured.”

Marion Brumaghim

The Boston Marathon has been a tradition for Marion Brumaghim’s family for years, and this year they coincidentally picked the right year to take a year off.

Brumaghim’s son, Thomas, a New Ipswich resident, decided not to run the marathon this time after years and years of competing in the famed race. Marion said in a phone interview Tuesday that he used to train for the marathon in Peterborough whenever he could. But he called it quits this year before the marathon registration period because he didn’t think it would be good for him physically, Marion said.

“I don’t think he will try running it again,” Marion said. “Who would have ever guessed something like [the explosions] would happen.”

When Marion was younger, she took trips down to the marathon with the rest of her family to watch her son run.

Marion’s daughter and son-in-law, Judy and Ricky Davidson, who live in Jaffrey, have traveled to the marathon the past few years to cheer Thomas on as well. As they left to go down to Boston on Monday to watch the race, despite the fact that Thomas was not running this year, something changed their mind, Marion said.

When she called to check up on them, Marion said she learned they had instead gone north to Concord.

“I was concerned when I saw the news, but I called and found out they had decided to stay away,” Marion said. “I’m so glad they did.”

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