Harth, creative director at OKC’s Ackerman McQueen advertising agency, finished her first Boston Marathon — the pinnacle event for long-distance runners — about 20 minutes before two bombs exploded near the finish line.
Shrapnel ripped through the crowd, killing three people and wounding more than 170 others.
Harth said that she and family members were about a block away at the time.
“With some buildings between us and the finish line, we couldn’t see anything, but we definitely heard it,” she said. “Police cars and ambulances starting zooming down the street. No one was moving. No one was saying anything. The tears of joy people had after finishing the race turned to tears of another kind.”
Another OKC runner, Susan Planer Phillips, was talking to a fellow marathoner inside a restricted area when the bombs went off.
“I grabbed her arm and hand and saw billowing white smoke,” she said. “There was no doubt in my mind what had happened. It wasn’t firecrackers.”
With smoke visible from a nearby building, Phillips said she thought the structure might be coming down on top of them.
“I told her (the other runner) we needed to get off the road and get inside,” Phillips recalled.
For those near the finish line, initial panic quickly turned to aid and rescue.
Phillips said she was able to help a few people get in touch with family members before cell phone service jammed.
Edmond’s Ryan Siler, who had already finished the marathon, had a clear view of the scene from the 28th floor of the Westin Hotel, located a block from the finish line.
“It was chaotic and devastating,” he said. “You had thousands of people finishing the race and thousands of people watching, and then the explosions occurred and you have people trying to help those who are hurt. It was a scary time. We heard the blast, and immediately, I told my training partner, ‘This is not good.’ We could see it but couldn’t do anything about it.”
Siler said he was impressed with the compassion and resilience that Boston residents showed mere days after the attack.
“I’m going to be thinking of them and praying for them,” he said.
Emily Bonner, a Norman resident, was at the marathon to watch a friend compete.
“It was unmistakable what it was,” she said of the explosions. “It was loud and shook the ground. We saw a mother with four kids hanging on to her and crying. We saw a man who just finished the race find his wife and collapse in her arms. They just cried.”
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