Boston bombings: Hudson Valley runners recall shock and fear
Hudson Valley residents were among the thousands lining Boston's streets for Monday's marathon.
Some already had crossed the finish line; others were still crowding the streets when two crudely built bombs detonated, killing three people and injuring more than 170 others.
A number of Hudson Valley locals talked to Newsday and News12 about the carnage they witnessed and the aftermath of the attack. Here are their recollections:
For Alexander Alvarez, the Boston Marathon turned surreal within seconds of his 4:00:44 finish.
"Ten seconds after I finished crossing the line, the first blast went off. It was very close. I was extremely close. A guy passed me. He had a huge gash in his forehead. The medics took him."
Then the 44-year-old Carmel resident turned and saw the thick cloud of white smoke from the second bomb.
"You heard the blast and you're in shock and you don't know what's going on," he said. "Then you heard the second blast."
Alvarez described the scene as "organized chaos."
"The police were great," he said. "They moved you out of harm's way real quick. They just kept us moving so you couldn't look around too much."
Also unharmed were Alvarez's mother, daughter and wife, who were waiting for him near the finish line.
"I was concerned about shrapnel hitting them," he said. "Thank God the volunteers let me use their phone and I met my wife and daughter."
That Alvarez even was in Boston was a byproduct of October's superstorm Sandy.
He ran his first marathon in 2011 in New York City and had been planning to run his second consecutive New York City Marathon last year. But when Sandy's aftermath prompted organizers to cancel the New York City event in November, Alvarez was a man without a race. It was only then that he began considering running the Boston Marathon, the 116-year-old granddaddy of marathons.
Alvarez already has signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon in October in Washington and planned to make it a family outing, but the Boston attack has given him second thoughts.
"I'm very undecided if I should go ... I don't think it's a safe place to take my family anymore," he said. "It's very difficult to secure 26 miles. It's almost impossible."
Looking back, Scarsdale native Bobby Asher reflected on just how routine his marathon preparations seemed at the time: taking a bus with 13 other members of the Van Cortlandt Track Club, loading up on carbohydrates such as pasta the night before the race, and discarding clothes in the minutes leading up to the start. Temperatures were in the upper 40s, nearly ideal for running 26.2 miles.
"Pretty much all the stereotypical things marathoners do, we did ... it all felt so normal ... No one could have comprehended," said the 27-year-old New York University sports management graduate student.
If anything, Asher expected the Boston Marathon to be a milestone.
The former 10,000-meter runner at SUNY Plattsburgh had run nine marathons, including New York and Boston, and this was to be his 10th.
During the race, cheers from the crowd helped Asher conquer Heartbreak Hill, a roughly half-mile stretch before mile 21 that leaves many marathoners gasping for air.
"Heartbreak Hill is what marathoning is all about," he said. "Everyone is with you on that stretch. Everyone comes out and pours support on all the runners."
Asher and other members of his team finished the marathon well before two shrapnel-packed bombs ripped through the crowd near the finish line.
Asher was in his hotel, and the events unfolding outside were not immediately apparent.
"This girl was coming into the lobby, sees her father and starts to sob," he said. "I thought it was post-marathon emotions."
Then the front desk staff began working through emergency procedures. At that point, Asher, who works in the athletic department of Edgemont High School, realized that there was a crisis.
Soon afterward, Asher's hotel, about two blocks from the finish, was evacuated. He took the team bus back to New York but will have to wait for the hotel to send him his clothes.
Asher said the camaraderie of his Bronx-based track team helped him cope with the Boston bombing.
Would he run the distance again?
"I've never felt unsafe doing one," he said. "The question is: Which am I going to do this fall?"
For Stephen Joseph, the bombing at the Boston Marathon brought on a chilling feeling of deja vu.
Joseph, a member of the Rockland Road Runners Club, was in Jerusalem in March of 2011 for the city's first-ever marathon when an explosion rocked the marathon route two days before the race, killing a British woman and wounding dozens of people. The marathon went on despite the terrorist attack, with beefed-up security and defiant Israelis declaring the violence would not change their lives.
"Life went on as normal the next day," Joseph told News12. "There was no moment of silence. They acted as if nothing had happened."
On Monday, the bombs at the Boston Marathon detonated less than an hour after Joseph crossed the finish line. He said he's aware of his luck.
"Yesterday," Joseph said, "was not so normal."
New Rochelle native Adrienne Wald moved to Boston nine months ago after getting a job teaching nursing at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. On Monday, she was leading a team of 30 nursing students, manning the medical tents along the marathon route, when the twin explosions rocked the city.
Like many New Yorkers, Wald's memories of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center remained vivid a dozen years later, and Wald said she immediately thought of 9/11 -- but not with the detachment of someone watching the images from a safe distance.
"I wasn't sure I'd see another day," Wald told News12.
The mad dash afterward was a familiar scene, Wald said, as were the frantic efforts to reach loved ones. Wald called her 24-year-old son, Jeremy, who still lives in Westchester County.
"I was scared to death, but I didn't want him to know it," Wald said. "I said, 'Jeremy, I love you.' "