Runner Jennifer Hartman and two friends were within a block of the finish line when they saw the first explosion in front of them — and then felt trapped when the second bomb went off behind them.
Hartman, 47, of Los Angeles, is the niece of Jim Chappell, owner of Chappell’s Restaurant and Sports Museum in North Kansas City. Chappell went to Boston to watch the race.
“We were scared,” Hartman said. “We were scared for our friends. We were thinking, ‘Where is the next one coming from?’”
Many Kansas City marathoners, along with friends and family members, described the chaotic and confusing scene Monday after the explosions at the finish line of Boston’s 26.2-mile race.
“It sounded just like a very loud explosion. Then a second one,” said Stacy Scalfaro, 39, of Lee’s Summit.
Scalfaro said the crowd remained quiet in the seconds after the explosions. Then came police, sirens — and paramedics.
“You could see the fear and people crying and tell people were scared,” she said.
About 125 Kansas City-area runners were registered to run in the world-famous marathon. More than 27,000 people were scheduled to take part in the race, and as many as half may have been on the course when the bombs exploded.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether any Kansas City-area runners or spectators were injured.
“It’s just horrifying,” said runner Kelly Dippold, 50, of Overland Park. “It’s chaos down there.”
“It was just a gorgeous day,” she added. “For this to happen is just so sad and devastating. I just feel for the people who were hurt.”
Peter Clune, a Leawood businessman, had finished the race, reunited with his wife and other family members and had just walked into his hotel when he heard the explosions.
“You’re just so glad you left the area when you did,” he said. “If you were separated from your family, you were scared, because you didn’t know.”
Ramsey Mohsen, 29, was in Boston to cheer on his girlfriend, 26-year-old Ali Hatfield of Grain Valley. She finished the marathon roughly 10 minutes before they heard a blast.
“All of a sudden you heard two loud explosions that just shook your chest,” Mohsen said. “Nobody really ran, but you could tell people were trying to exit the area.”
Patrick Wackeria finished the marathon in 3 hours and 30 minutes, about an hour before the explosions. He and his wife heard about the tragedy on his hotel television.
“It’s hard to talk about,” said Wackeria, 46, who knows several Kansas City runners in the marathon. “I haven’t heard from a lot of them yet.”
Greg Hall, 58, of Kansas City, said the city locked up as emergency workers responded. “You can’t get in or out,” he said. “Traffic is just snarled. There are emergency vehicles everywhere.”
Ron Simon, 52, of Lenexa, said he was a block away when the explosions ripped through Boston’s downtown streets.
“It was pretty loud,” he said. “It sounded pretty bad, especially when the second one went off. There was no doubt what it was. It shook everything.”
Doug Brown, Overland Park’s public works director, was in Boston to run the marathon. He and his wife were uninjured.
Chappell’s niece and two friends were positioning themselves side by side for their triumphant finish when the first explosion occurred. In the middle was Phil Kent, 55, who is battling pancreatic cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, with Renee Opell, 50, on his left, and Hartman on his right.
“We were in the homestretch, ready to hold our hands up and get our picture taken together,” Hartman said.
Then they saw the debris of the explosion and heard the boom. Their immediate thought was a terrorist bomb, she said.
“We stopped in our tracks and held hands,” Hartman said.
They had turned around and were moving away from the blast when they faced the second explosion.
People began moving out through the side streets. People were crying. They were trying to call people on their cellphones, but the lines were overloaded.
It would be a few hours before Hartman and Chappell each knew the other was OK.
Chappell and other family members had been on the subway when everyone was ordered off the trains.
“I’d never seen the subway clear out so quickly,” he said. “I’d never seen so many ambulances and police cars in my life.”
Marathon runner Kate Dibble of Overland Park was already in her hotel room at the Fairmont Copley Plaza when two big explosions shook the building.
“It was one right after the other,” she said. “It was, ‘boom,’ one second and ‘boom.’”
The hotel was locked down. “It’s mass chaos outside,” she said.
Hall said tents set up to help runners were quickly turned into makeshift emergency rooms.
Simon said he had finished the race about 15 minutes before the explosion. He had been processed through the finish area and found his wife, Vicky, a spectator. The two were on their way to their hotel room.
He said he felt lucky that he had not remained in the finishing area much longer. “I’m glad I wasn’t any slower than I was,” he said.
Mohsen said after he and his girlfriend arrived at their Copley Square hotel, they saw people crying, either hurt or worried about family and friends hit in the blast. At least 20 ambulances were parked outside the hotel, he said.
Don Ledford, an Excelsior Springs resident and spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas City, had finished his first Boston Marathon about 20 minutes before the first bomb went off. He was in a nearby changing tent.
“It was really loud,” Ledford said. “And we must have been a couple of blocks away.”
Authorities quickly began herding runners away from the finish line, Ledford said. Ambulances and police cars poured into the area and confusion mounted about where runners could meet friends and family. Ledford, 50, borrowed a phone from another runner and texted his wife and son that he was OK. They later reunited back at their hotel in Brookline and began piecing together what had happened.
“It was a strange and scary day in Boston,” Ledford said.
The Kansas City runners said they were worried about spectators and runners, but relieved to have escaped injury themselves.
Scalfaro ran the marathon with two friends.
“Before the race, (we) said a prayer, ‘May God give us wings on our shoes so we can finish strong,’” Scalfaro said. “We’re just glad that he did and we finished when we did.
“We’re together. We’re thankful. We feel blessed.”