Debra Levy, publisher of USGlass magazine, was one of the thousands of spectators during yesterday’s Boston Marathon and one of the witnesses to the bombing. Her brother-in-law Vincent was running in the event and she, along with other family members, began the day excited to share in the experience.
“If Vinnie had been 10 or 15 minutes slower crossing the finish line we would have been injured,” Levy says. “Fifteen minutes before the explosion, we were standing in front of the Marathon store cheering him on the finish line. If he’d been a bit slower, we’d have still been there when the bomb went off.”
At the time of the explosion, Levy and her husband had said their goodbyes to the marathoner and were waiting for an elevator on the 29th floor of their hotel in Copley Square, one block over from Boylston where the bomb went off.
“The elevator bank has a two story glass window and you could see quite a bit away. All of a sudden there was a loud bang and the hotel shook,” she says, recalling the first explosion. “Living near Quantico [Marine Base, where explosives are detonated often], I knew that was a bomb and I could see the smoke and fire rising almost immediately,” she says. And then the second explosion went off just as the elevator arrived. “I knew immediately it was a bomb.”
Fortunately, Levy and her husband were able to get one of the last cabs out of downtown before it was locked down for security reasons. “People were screaming to others on the street en masse ‘go North’ or ‘head for the water’ as sirens and emergency equipment began flooding the area. Every single cell phone was out though signals were hard to come by.
“You could see a wave of bedlam and injury emanating from the next street over,
she said. “The faces I saw on people were reminiscent of those I saw on the faces in photos from 9/11.”
“Some people walked over to the hotel, in shock, and gave reports of the injuries they had seen. Just the reports were enough to make you sick to your stomach,” she said.
“I was very worried that my mother in New York would hear about it on the news before she knew her two daughters were okay, so I put a notice out on Facebook, which was the only thing working for me at the time. Eventually I did get through via phone and text.”
Luckily, their taxi driver was able to weave safely through the near-gridlock and to the airport where they were able to depart later that evening. Her sister and brother-in-law, though, did not make it out of town before the lock-down/curfew and didn’t depart until this afternoon.
Thinking back about the experience, Levy was thankful the bombs were not even more powerful. “Though the buildings shook even blocks away, to my knowledge none collapsed.” she says. “They did take out some of the windows in at least two buildings. There were also reports that only the outside lite in some insulating glass units were impacted in some nearby buildings. It seemed like a bomb designed to hurt people more than property,” she added.
“There was not a lot of glass breakage,” she said, “I thought to myself ‘well, at least glass won’t get a bad rap in this tragedy.’ Security glass would have helped, though, and film could have helped hold glass in place.”
Levy says she was not particularly impressed with the level of security prior to the bombing.
“We were out and walking from about 10 a.m. until about 2:45 p.m. and, except for that little area where the finish line is, I did not see a significant police presence,” she says. “In fact, it seemed so devoid of a police presence to me that I thought about a terrorist strike at least three times during the day, I don’t know if it comes from living in the D.C. area or from growing up in an extended family of first responders in New York, but I kept looking for bomb-sniffing dogs throughout the day and never saw any. That void stood out to me,” she adds. “I thought to myself that this is a recipe for disaster but I shook it off thinking I was being overly cautious.”
“On the news last night, there were questions being asked about how the bomber got into the secure area, but it didn’t look to me that the bomb was placed in a secure area,” she said. Levy explains there were temporary metal bleachers set up facing the finish line and behind that was the passenger walkway and then stores.
“Anyone could have walked past and put something behind the bleachers,” she says. “And those bleachers and the metal fencing around it would have just acted as more shrapnel once the bomb went off.”
“I hate to say it, but the worst realization of the day occurred when we got to the airport about an hour after the attack.” She says. “We were talking about it and the TSA agent checking IDs asked me what happened. Once I told him he shrugged his arms and said ‘hey, we live in a bubble here.’ It was then I realized that those TSA agents had not yet been alerted and nearly an hour had gone by and that really concerned me.”
She also heaped praise on first responders. “I think the City of Boston did an incredible job in quick and effective response to the bombing. Their reaction and response was almost instantaneous and very forceful.”
“My heart goes out to all of the people who tried to watch a wonderful event on a nice day, and to those people who were hurt or worse,” she says. Speaking of the 27,000 runners, Levy says there were about 9,000 who could not finish. Of those who were within five to ten minutes of the finish line, she says they were diverted to another line.
The explosions that took place in Boston yesterday killed at least three people, including at 8-year old boy, and left more than 140 injured.
If you were taking part in the event yesterday, attended, or know someone who was there, email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your stories.