BOSTON—Arlene Caruso had just cheered on her husband as he ran past the 25-mile mark of Monday’s Boston Marathon when she saw a flash followed by a loud boom a few blocks down Boylston Street near the finish line.
“At first, we thought, ‘Wow, there’s a celebration canon,” recalled Caruso, who was standing with her brother and sister-in-law along the sidelines. “But then there was another boom, and then I realized, ‘Oh no.’”
According to Caruso, the scene immediately erupted into chaos: people were screaming and shoving and running in all directions. To her horror, she realized that the last time she had seen her husband was as he was running into the area in between the two blast zones.
Caruso immediately began pushing her way toward the finish line to find her husband—but she recalled, “It was like swimming upstream.”
All she could think about was whether her husband was safe. “It was terrifying. It was really scary,” Caruso said, as she stood inside the lobby of the Marriott Hotel near Copley Square Monday night, just blocks from the two bombs erupted, killing three and injuring more than 130. “All I could think about was, ‘Where was he?’”
About fifteen minutes later, she received a text from her husband, alerting her that he was safely back at their hotel. But as she recalled to a reporter, the period of time between the blasts and hearing from her husband had felt “forever.” As she stood in line Monday night at a hotel computer trying to print out her family’s boarding passes for their flight back to Pennsylvania Tuesday, she said in a shaky voice that all she wanted to do was go home.
“What happened here was just unimaginable,” she said.
And that was largely the mood at the Marriott, where hundreds of runners along with their family and friends were staying. Inside the lobby, dozens of race participants, many still dressed in their official blue and yellow Boston Marathon shirts or jackets, wandered around dazed—trying to make sense of what had happened earlier Monday. Others warily eyed the front door, where more than a dozen Boston police officers, dressed in head-to-toe combat gear, stood guard outside in what looked like a war zone.
The streets were taped off by yellow caution tape, as dozens of police cars and other emergency equipment blocked much of the roads. Across the street, a mall usually teeming with tourists was eerily silent—guarded by police officers wielding large rifles. The only sound in the air was the occasional siren, as law enforcement officials continued to comb the marathon route in search of other potential bombs late into the night.
In the sports bar upstairs at the Marriott, it was supposed to be a night of celebration But the bar’s televisions—usually tuned to sports—were all tuned to local news, which played footage of the bombs exploding near the finish line on repeat.
People hugged each other and shared their stories of where they were and what it had sounded like to them. “I thought it was a sonic boom,” one woman said. Another woman, like Caruso, had thought the explosion was a form of entertainment—like something you’d see at an National Football League game.
“But then I saw people covered in blood,” the woman, who declined to give her name, said. “It was the worst nightmare come true.”
Another man said he was already back at the Marriott having watched a friend complete the marathon earlier in the day when a boom shook his windows on the hotel’s 17th floor.
“It felt like an earthquake,” the man, who declined to give his name, said.
Downstairs, a line of people snaked from the front desk and around the lobby as some sought to make their escape from Boston early. But the commute was tricky. With streets closed, taxis couldn’t come near the hotel, and the closest subway stop remained shut down by authorities.
One woman, who had tears in her eyes, waved off a reporter who tried to speak with her. “I just want to go home,” she said, as she walked away.