Correction to this story: Due to incorrect information supplied to the Union-Bulletin, this story incorrectly stated Cynthia Wrinkle of Milton-Freewater finished the marathon, which was halted when bombs exploded near the finish line. Wrinkle said in an email she was in the first group stopped and was “permitted after about an hour to walk in, circumventing the finish line — now a cordoned crime scene — to the gear buses and the family reunion area.” We regret the error.
A day intended for a show of supreme athletic endurance and jubilation ended in gore, panic and sadness for runners and thousands of people attending the Boston Marathon when bombs exploded near the finish line.
Officials Tuesday called the bombings an act of terrorism.
Several people from the Walla Walla area were at the event Monday — some to watch, others to run — but none were among the dead and injured.
Two bombs blew up seconds apart, tearing off limbs and leaving the streets spattered with blood and strewn with broken glass. Three people were killed, including an 8-year-old boy, and more than 170 were wounded, according to Associated Press reports this morning.
A doctor treating the wounded said one of the victims was maimed by what looked like ball bearings or BBs.
Federal investigators said today that no one has claimed responsibility for the bombings on one of the city’s biggest civic holidays, Patriots Day, held in honor of opening battles in the American Revolution. But the blasts raised the specter of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the bombings “a cruel act of terror” and said “a thorough investigation will have to determine whether it was planned or carried out by a terror group, foreign or domestic.”
Walla Walla County Auditor Karen Martin, whose daughter Diane Martin Newton ran the race first held in 1897, said she and other family members were about two blocks away when the blasts occurred.
“We were just going through an intersection on Stuart Street and it was elbow-to-elbow people,” Martin said. Then, after the first blast, “it was just dead silence. We couldn’t really see anything at that point, so we kept walking to our car and when we got into our parking garage we began hearing lots of cop cars and ambulances approaching.”
Her daughter had finished the marathon about 30-40 minutes before the first explosions, Martin said. She returned with her family group to their hotel room in Peabody, a city about 15 miles north of Boston, and began watching the news coverage.
“We’re counting our lucky stars and we’re just sick to our stomachs at what happened,” Martin said.
Another Walla Walla resident, Gary Rittenbach, had crossed the finish line about 20 minutes before the first blast. “I’m glad I didn’t listen to that little voice in my ear that told me to walk a bit.”
He said he had gotten through the “chute” where finishers were presented with their medals and was walking along Boylston Street “when I heard a deep ‘boom’ and I said, ‘this is not normal. It’s not like a gas main explosion or an electrical explosion.’”
Rittenbach said from his point of view he could see smoke coming up from the blast site, but wasn’t sure of its exact location. “I was just hoping it wasn’t anything with malice.”
The blasts took place about four hours after the start of the men’s race, which meant that there were still several thousand runners yet to finish the race.
Cynthia Wrinkle of Milton-Freewater was able to finish her run and was safely headed to a motel after the explosions, said stepdaughter Meredith Wrinkle in Facebook messages to the Union-Bulletin.
Cynthia Wrinkle, married to longtime Milton-Freewater educator Curt Wrinkle, is a serious marathon runner and has been putting in practice hours for this event, her stepdaughter said.
Brooke Johnson and Marcella Rietz were other area runners registered to compete in the race but opted not to go this year, according to Rietz.
“I guess this was a very good year not to go,” she said. “I think its a very sad, sad situation.”
Clarkston resident Jennifer Nicholas said she had finished the race about 30 minutes before the first explosion. She was in the area where runners picked up clothes and items left behind at the start. Her mother, Sharon Cottingham of Walla Walla, and her sister, Susan Day, had gone to Boston with her for the race.
“I had just gotten my belongings and was looking for my mom and sister, who were in the family waiting area about two and a half blocks from the finish,” she said.
The first blast initially left people puzzled, not panicked, said Nicholas. “It was funny, when the first one went off, people didn’t know what was going on. They didn’t know if it was a celebratory event or what. People were just wondering what was happening.”
But even after the second explosion, most people remained relatively calm.
“There was a feeling of real uncertainty,” she said. “But the race volunteers and the police were amazing. They led people away from the area. We didn’t know what was happening, but as more emergency workers came in, we knew something was wrong.”
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said contrary to earlier reports, no unexploded bombs were found, The Associated Press reported. He said the only explosives were the ones that went off.
Across the U.S., from Washington to Los Angeles, police tightened security, monitoring landmarks, government buildings, transit hubs and sporting events.
The FBI took charge of the investigation, converging on a home in the suburb of Revere on Monday night. Authorities gave no details on the search. Investigators were seen leaving a building there early Tuesday carrying brown paper bags, plastic trash bags and a duffel bag.
They also repeatedly appealed for any video, audio and photos taken by marathon spectators, even images that people think might not think are significant.
“There has to be hundreds, if not thousands, of photos and videos” that might help investigators, state police Col. Timothy Alben said.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said investigators gathered a large number of surveillance tapes from businesses and intend to go through them frame by frame.