I met my family in front of First Republic Bank around 12:45. It was absolutely brutal getting to them. The bus had dropped me off near the Melting Pot around 12:15, so I hustled to get to them, hoping to catch the elite runners. As I walked, my sister Vicky texted pictures as they crossed, so I slowed, stopping for coffees at Starbucks right near Copley. I walked all the way around the library only to face a near standstill in front of Lord & Taylor, just past Ring Street. When I finally met them, I was so worn out I could have headed home then. I sipped my coffee quickly so I’d have my hands free for pictures. We stayed in that spot for a while, directly across from Forum and Starbucks, but it was a little chilly in the shade so we decided to keep moving down the street to get into the sunlight and find a better vantage point. We stopped along the way snapping pics, but settled in right before the mile 26 marker.
We whooped, cheered, and waved our flag any time the National Guard passed. When runners slowed or struggled, we shouted encouragements, “Keep going! It’s right there!!” The energy! I’d never cheered at the Boston marathon before. My sister Vicky and I talked about what we’d wear in next year’s race; we were so inspired and were having so much fun we’d decided we wanted to do it.
It was tiring though and soon I grew antsy. We hadn’t yet seen a runner we knew from our old hometown pass by though so we lingered on. My mom said, “I can feel it, he’s in this next group.” “Yea, yea, sure you do Mom,” I thought. But 30 seconds later, we saw Jack Hart run by carrying an American flag. It was nuts! I snapped a picture of him and we slowly started towards the Prudential Mall entrance. I snapped one last pic of my sister Vicky with the time clock and 26 mile marker because she’s 26 years old and we headed inside the mall.
We bee-lined for the restrooms near the food court while our mom took our sister to Godiva to wait for us. We were walking straight through the seating area when I heard a loud BOOM. My sister and I looked at each other and said “what the hell was that?” and took a few slow steps towards the windows on our right. At the exact moment I stepped, I heard another massive BOOM and saw a cloud of smoke. I must have rolled my ankle then. In an instant, people went from slowly, curiously crowding towards the windows to see what happened, to a stampede toward the exist to get back onto the street. The floor trembled from the mass movement. I heard tables screeching and chairs clattering, overturned.
People were screaming that it was a bomb and the building was collapsing or maybe we were being attacked. I definitely looked up and thought it might be a bomb in a taller building. I screamed for my sister. I made it to just outside the exit, wondering if there’d be a gunman to pick us off. I threw myself on a ledge, I couldn’t stand anymore. I heard my mother screaming my name, WENDY!!! WENDY!!! Looking over her shoulder and clasping my sister Skylar’s head to her. She was kind of crouching low, protecting her. I thought “Oh good, they’re safe”. I screamed but didn’t move. My mom and sisters moved toward me and my mom screamed, “Get up!!” and she and my sister Vicky grabbed me under each arm and dragged me away. No one around us knew what to do. Stay? Run? Would there be more? Was it a bomb? Where? It was pandemonium.
People were screaming to get away from the buildings in case there were other bombs, police were running away from us, towards where the bombs must have been. Where we’d been standing not 10 minutes earlier. Everything was so barricaded, everyone was bottle-necking. Runners were still running into the smoke. No one could see anything. It was terrifying. After a moment’s pause once we got down the steps and back to the sidewalk, we headed south on Boylston, my sisters supporting me, my mom guiding us. We left the city on foot, avoiding major landmarks, tall buildings and crowds, unsure if we were being attacked and too scared to stop moving. It was absolutely terrifying.
In the days that followed, I couldn’t sleep. I was glued to my phone, refreshing Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for news from friends and others who’d been there. I touched base with my family hourly. We were in shock. One of the first things I did was upload my photos. I’d wanted to submit them to the police since we’d been so close to the second bombing site and photographed it so extensively. What struck me as I reviewed them wasn’t so much the horror that we’d escaped tragedy so narrowly, but how fun it had all been until it hadn’t.
I can’t begin to express my gratitude to the friends and family who reached out that day and the days following. To thank the first responders who rushed into the smoke without hesitating. My heart aches for the lives lost, the bodies and spirits crushed by this cowardly act. But I’ve never been so proud to be a Bostonian. This city, steeped in history. The birthplace of our country. Like our Rome. There is literally a freedom trail running along our winding, cobbled streets. Patriots fought here. So we will rise. And the next Boston Marathon will be bigger than ever.
Now I’m just frustrated that I have to wait for my ankle to heal. I want to start training.