Linda Claire Willits crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon in a time of 3 hours and 34 minutes, setting a personal best in her 29th marathon.
No matter how many races one runs, there’s nothing like that euphoric moment of pushing through the pain to complete 26.2 miles. Willits soaked in the atmosphere along Boylston Street. People lining the road cleared a path when they saw she was a runner. They congratulated her and made her feel like a celebrity.
She texted a friend waiting down the street at the bar at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. “I’m on my way,” Willits said.
Her friend, Stephanie Douglas, prepared to celebrate.
Then, a small explosion went off, followed seconds later by a thunderous boom that tore through the area.
“It was so strong the bar filled up with smoke and chairs tipped over,” Douglas said. “I saw people — it was like they were on a trampoline literally flying through the air.”
Bedlam ensued. Smoke poured into the bar. People began shouting that another bomb had been found, and everyone scrambled to escape.
Outside, one man’s legs were blown off, and he kept trying to stand up.
Douglas fled, unable to contact Willits. Panic for her friend sunk in.
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