Triangle residents felt panic, relief in wake of marathon bombing
Posted April 16, 2013
Morrisville, N.C. — Lauren Pilcher had completed the Boston Marathon, while Guy Rachmuth was nearing the finish line. Sloan Rachmuth, Gerald Harvey and Christina Blyde were among the throngs lining the end of the 26-mile course to cheer on those in the race.
Then, two bomb blasts rocked the annual marathon, killing three and injuring scores of spectators and runners.
All five Triangle residents were near the site of Monday's bombing, and as they returned to Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Tuesday, they recounted the horror and confusion of the scene and their relief at having escaped unharmed.
"You had half the people who were completely dazed, and you had half who were screaming in terror," said Sloan Rachmuth of Chapel Hill, who was rushing to the finish line with roses to greet her husband.
She would have been sitting in bleachers directly across from where the first homemade bomb went off if not for friends who kept her late at a lunch.
The first blast "stopped me in my tracks," she said, noting that she felt a vibration inside her. She was able to take a few steps before the second bomb went off.
"It was an unmistakable, massive explosion," she said.
Guy Rachmuth was about a half-mile from finishing his first marathon when he encountered a growing number of people running the other way. He said he was unaware of the explosions until someone told him what happened.
"I was so focused on running," he said. "Everybody was stopped. Everybody was dazed. People were just trying to find their loved ones and their families."
He said he quickly borrowed someone's cellphone and was able to call his wife and learn that she was unhurt.
Boston authorities quickly shut down local cellphone service after the blasts, fearing that the wireless signals could set off other devices.
Harvey said the lack of service was one of the eerie aspects of the aftermath of the bombing.
"It was like a horror movie," the Raleigh resident said. "Everybody kind of stood there. You didn't know what you could do, what you should do."
Harvey was with a group supporting friends in the marathon and was about 50 feet from where the second bomb went off. He said he thought the first blast was cannon fire that was "part of the pageantry" of the race, but the ensuing blast told him immediately that something was wrong.
A police officer quickly ordered the group into a nearby pub for safety, and Harvey said he waited there for a while before walking back to his hotel.
Blyde wasn't as lucky, injuring her ankle as she tried to escape the chaos near the finish line after the bombing.
The Boston native and North Carolina State University graduate student was about a block from the two blasts and said a nervous silence settled over the area after the first explosion as people tried to figure out what was happening.
"If there was one, I think it would have been different, but I think, because it was two, everyone knew something was really wrong," she said. "There was panic. I said right away, 'Something bad just happened. We need to get out of here.'"
Fellow N.C. State graduate student Lauren Pilcher had finished the marathon a short time earlier and was still nearby when the bombs went off.
"I had ran by that same area," she said. "If I had been slower, if we had lingered, we could have been right there. I think that was the scariest part of it."
The residents said they were glad to put the experience behind them but felt sorrow for the people hurt in the explosions and sadness for the runners who were not able to complete a race for which they had trained for months.
"I could kiss the ground (at RDU airport) if it were more sanitary," Sloan Rachmuth said. "I just want to see my children."