The finish line was within sight.
After more than 26 miles, 62-year-old Shorewood resident Elaine DeVries crested her final hill on Boylston Street and was less than two blocks from completing her third Boston Marathon when she heard a loud boom and saw thick, black smoke rising near the finish line.
“I kind of looked around and was thinking it was a cannon going off for Patriot’s Day or something celebratory,” she said. “I’d never heard a bomb explosion before, but I remember thinking the placement seemed kind of strange—on the side near the sidewalk.”
DeVries was still running toward the finish line when a second explosion erupted—sending downtown Boston into what she called controlled chaos.
“I was just getting ready to give it my final sprint down the last block and a half,” she said. “That’s when the second one went off. I saw people ahead of me running down the street towards me. They were falling down. People were screaming ‘bomb,’ and I just froze there for a while wondering what was going on and—being that close—trying to figure out if there was any way I could get to the finish line.”
Through a fog of weariness, DeVries quickly realized crossing the finish line was not an option.
“People were saying there could be a terrorist there or more bombs,” she said. “I did see people go down. I did see blood. I saw things flying and what I think was a leg or something.”
- Wayzata Woman Recounts Her Harrowing Experience at Boston Marathon Finish Line
- Boston Marathon Bombings (via Watertown Patch)
- Thousands Mourn Sean Collier at MIT
DeVries went on to say she was caught in the “grey area” with maybe 20 other runners—a gap between when police stopped the race and the finish line. She said spectators were knocking down the fencing that separated the course and sidewalk in a frantic effort to get out of the area however they could.
As ambulances screamed by her one after the other, DeVries joined a throng of spectators and runners in a retreat away from the blast area.
“I was freezing cold and had no money, no clothes—nothing,” she said. “A man saw me shivering and said, ‘take my jacket.’ The police were saying, ‘go, the race is over. Go!’”
With no idea where she was or where she was going, DeVries followed police instructions and weaved her way through downtown Boston. She soon reached a restaurant, and the owner beckoned for her to come in and rest.
“I went in and watched the scene unfold on TV,” she said. “The people there took care of me. They got me food and made me comfortable. I’ll always remember that.”
DeVries was in Boston alone for the race—with her husband and two daughters 2,000 miles away vacationing in Florida. One of DeVries’ daughters had been tracking her mother’s progress electronically and knew she was near the finish line.
“My projected time was somewhere around 4:07:00, but I never came in,” she said. “They were concerned, but there was no way for quite some time to make a phone call. The phones were down, and I believe they were worried further bombs could go off by use of cell phone.”
Eventually a call went through, and DeVries was able to tell her family that she was OK.
“I’m still trying to sort things out,” she said. “When you’re that close you get what I’m calling tunnel vision.”
Arriving at Logan Airport the next morning to catch a 5:30 a.m. flight home, DeVries was met by Boston police officers who questioned her about what she saw and heard the day before.
“They asked if I ran the race, and I told them I had,” she said. “They asked if I’d seen anything unusual or if I’d taken any photos during the race. Lots of runners bring cameras to take pictures along the course, but I did not.”
Elaine DeVries has taught at Maple Grove Junior High School for the last 17 years and has lived with her husband in Shorewood for the last four decades.
Her “fun job,” as she calls it, is working in the press box at Target Field. She enjoys running, attending health clubs, spin classes and spending time with her family.
She’s undecided about whether or not to run in the 2013 Boston Marathon.