Near the finish line, Brighid Wall of Duxbury, Mass., stood to watch the race with her husband and children, cheering on the competitors laboring through the race’s final demanding steps.
In the post-race chute Tracy Eaves, a 43-year-old controller from Niles, Mich., proudly claimed her medal and a Mylar blanket, and took a big swig from a bottle of Gatorade.
And at the corner of Newbury Street and Gloucester, cab driver Lahcene Belhoucet pulled over, relishing the overabundance of paying passengers on an afternoon that traditionally gives almost as much of a boost to Boston’s economy as it does to the city’s spirits.
But the blast — so loud it recalled the cannon fire heard on summer nights when the Boston Pops plays the 1812 Overture — brought the celebration crashing down.
“Everyone sort of froze, the runners froze, and then they kept going because you weren’t sure what it was,” Wall said. “The first explosion was far enough away that we only saw smoke.” Then the second bomb exploded, this time just 10 feet away.
“My husband threw our kids to the ground and lay on top of them,” Wall said. “A man lay on top of us and said, ‘Don’t get up! Don’t get up!’ “
From her spot beyond the finish, a “huge shaking boom” washed over Eaves.
“I turned around and saw this monstrous smoke,” she said. She thought it might be part of the festivities, until the second blast and volunteers began rushing the runners from the scene.
“Then you start to panic,” she said.
Back in the field, Jones-Bolton noticed runners turning around and coming back at her. Then she realized most were wearing the blankets given to those who’d already completed the race. Suddenly the race came to halt, but nobody could say why. When word began to spread, Jones-Bolton panicked at the thought of her husband standing at the finish line, but was reassured by other runners.