Blasts at Boston Marathon Kill 3 and Injure 100
A woman prayed at the scene.
By JOHN ELIGON and MICHAEL COOPER
Published: April 15, 2013 902 Comments
BOSTON — Two powerful bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston
Marathon on Monday afternoon, killing three people, including an
8-year-old child, and injuring more than 100, as one of this city's most
cherished rites of spring was transformed from a scene of cheers and
sweaty triumph to one of screams and carnage.
Site of the Boston Marathon Explosions
Witnesses to Chaos at Boston Marathon
Video: Obama on the Explosions in Boston
Photos: Carnage at the Boston Marathon
A pair of blasts at the Boston Marathon on Monday left three people dead, including a child, and at least 100 more injured.
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Almost three-quarters of the 23,000 runners who participated in the race
had already crossed the finish line when a bomb that had apparently
been placed in a garbage can exploded around 2:50 p.m. in a haze of
smoke amid a crowd of spectators on Boylston Street, just off Copley
Square in the heart of the city. Thirteen seconds later, another bomb
exploded several hundred feet away.
Pandemonium erupted as panicked runners and spectators scattered, and
rescue workers rushed in to care for the dozens of maimed and injured,
some of whom lost legs in the blast, witnesses said. The F.B.I. took the
lead role in the investigation on Monday night, and Richard
DesLauriers, the special agent in charge of the bureau's Boston office,
described the inquiry at a news conference as "a criminal investigation
that is a potential terrorist investigation."
The reverberations were felt far outside the city, with officials in New
York and Washington stepping up security at important locations. Near
the White House, the Secret Service cordoned off Pennsylvania Avenue out
of what one official described as "an abundance of caution."
President Obama, speaking at the White House, vowed to bring those
responsible for the blasts to justice. "We will get to the bottom of
this," the president said. "We will find who did this, and we will find
out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible
groups will feel the full weight of justice."
Mr. Obama did not refer to the attacks as an act of terrorism, and he
cautioned people from "jumping to conclusions" based on incomplete
information. But a White House official, speaking on the condition of
anonymity afterward, said, "Any event with multiple explosive devices —
as this appears to be — is clearly an act of terror, and will be
approached as an act of terror."
"However," the official added, "we don't yet know who carried out this
attack, and a thorough investigation will have to determine whether it
was planned and carried out by a terrorist group, foreign or domestic."
Some runners were approaching the end of the 26.2-mile race when the two
blasts, in rapid succession, sent them running away from the finish
"The first one went off, I thought it was a big celebratory thing, and I
just kept going," recalled Jarrett Sylvester, 26, a runner from East
Boston, who said it had sounded like a cannon blast. "And then the
second one went off, and I saw debris fly in the air. And I realized it
was a bomb at that point. And I just took off and ran in the complete
There were conflicting reports about how many devices there were. One
law enforcement official said there had been four: the two that exploded
at the marathon and two others that were disabled by the police. The
official said that the devices appeared to have been made with black
powder and ball bearings, but that investigators were unsure how the two
that exploded had been set off.
It was unclear Monday evening who might be responsible for the blast.
Although investigators said that they were speaking to a Saudi citizen
who was injured in the blast, several law enforcement officials took
pains to note that no one was in custody.
Some law enforcement officials noted that the blasts came at the start
of a week that has sometimes been seen as significant for radical
American antigovernment groups: it was the April 15 deadline for filing
taxes, and Patriots' Day in Massachusetts, the start of a week that has
seen violence in the past. April 19 is the anniversary of the 1995
bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
The explosive devices used in the attacks on Monday were similar in size
to the device used in the 1996 attack at the Centennial Olympic Park
bombing in Atlanta but were not nearly as large as the one used in
Oklahoma City. In the Atlanta attack, a pipe bomb was detonated near
pedestrians, killing 2 and injuring more than 100 — similar numbers to
The attack in Oklahoma City was far larger because the perpetrator used a
truck packed with thousands of pounds of explosives. The device killed
more than 150 people.
The attack on Monday occurred in areas that had been largely cleared of
vehicles for the marathon. Without vehicles to pack explosives into, the
perpetrators would have been forced to rely on much smaller devices.
Officials stressed that they had no suspects in the attack. The Saudi
man, who was interviewed at Brigham and Women's Hospital, had been seen
running from the scene of the first explosion, a person briefed on
preliminary developments in the investigation said on Monday afternoon. A
law enforcement official said later Monday that the man, was in the
United States on a student visa and came under scrutiny because of his
injuries, his proximity to the blasts and his nationality — but added
that he was not known to federal authorities and that his role in the
attack, if any, was unclear.
The explosions brought life in Boston to a halt. Police officials
effectively closed a large part of the Back Bay neighborhood, which
surrounds the blast site; some transit stops were closed; planes were
briefly grounded at Boston Logan International Airport and the Boston
Symphony Orchestra canceled its Monday night concert. A Boston Celtics
game scheduled for Tuesday was also canceled.
Boston was bracing for a heightened law enforcement presence on Tuesday,
with its transit riders subject to random checks of their backpacks and
bags, and many streets in the center of the city likely to be closed to
traffic as the investigation continues. Gov. Deval Patrick said Monday
night that "the city of Boston is open and will be open tomorrow, but it
will not be business as usual."
Boston's police commissioner, Ed Davis, urged people to stay off the
streets. "We're recommending to people that they stay home, that if
they're in hotels in the area that they return to their rooms, and that
they don't go any place and congregate in large crowds," he said at an
afternoon news conference.
It had begun as a perfect day for the Boston Marathon, one of running's
most storied events, with blue skies and temperatures just shy of 50
degrees. The race typically draws half a million spectators. And long
after the world-class runners had finished — the men's race was won by
Lelisa Desisa Benti of Ethiopia, who finished it in 2 hours, 10 minutes
and 22 seconds — the sidewalks of Back Bay were still thick with
spectators cheering on friends and relatives as they loped, exhausted,
toward the finish line.
Dr. Natalie Stavas, a pediatric resident at Boston Children's Hospital,
was running in the marathon with her father and was nearing the finish
line when the explosions shook the street.
"The police were trying to keep us back, but I told them that I was a
physician and they let me through," she recalled in an interview.
First she performed CPR on one woman. "She was on the ground, she wasn't
breathing, her legs were pretty much gone," she said, adding that she
feared that the woman had not survived.
Then she tried to help a woman with an injury in her groin area, and a
man who had lost his foot. Dr. Stavas said she had applied a tourniquet
to the man's leg with someone's belt. "He was likely in shock," she
said. "He was saying, 'I'm O.K., doctor, I'm O.K.' "
"Then ambulances started coming in by the dozen," she said.
The blast was so powerful that it blew out shop windows and damaged a
window on the third floor of the Central Library in Copley Square, which
was closed to the public for Patriots' Day.
A number of people were taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, said
Dr. Alasdair Conn, the hospital's chief of emergency services — and
several had lost their legs.
"This is like a bomb explosion we hear about in Baghdad or Israel or other tragic points in the world," Dr. Conn said.
Several children were among the 10 patients who were brought to Boston
Children's Hospital, including a 2-year-old boy with a head injury who
was admitted to the medical/surgical intensive care unit.
The police faced another problem as they tried to secure the blast
scene: many spectators dropped their backpacks and bags as they
scattered to safety, and investigators had to treat each abandoned bag
as a potential bomb. There were bomb scares at area hotels. At one point
in the afternoon, Boston police officials said that they feared that a
fire at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum could have
been related to the marathon bombs, but they later said it seemed to be
The Boston police said that they were getting numerous reports of
suspicious packages. Asked if they had found all the explosive devices,
Mr. Davis, the police commissioner, urged citizens to remain alert and
said he was "not prepared to say we're at ease at this time."
John Eligon reported from Boston, and Michael Cooper from New York.
Reporting was contributed by Steve Eder, Ashley Parker, William K.
Rashbaum, Katharine Q. Seelye and Mary Pilon from New York, Mark
Landler, Michael S. Schmidt, Eric Schmitt and Abby Goodnough from
Washington, and Joel Elliott, Dina Kraft, Tim Rohan and Brent McDonald