A last-minute decision to watch the Boston Marathon several blocks from the finish line was a fateful choice for former Huntington resident Dana Silverberg.

As she and a friend made their way through the streets Monday, Silverberg, 23, said they decided the finish line at Copley Square would be too crowded.

"I said, 'I don't think we should go to the end because it's going to be really crowded because all of the spectators' families are going to be there, all of the VIPs will be there, [and] we are not going to get a good view,' " said the Tufts University graduate student who is studying school psychology.

Instead, she and her friend chose a place along the route three to four blocks away, at Commonwealth Avenue and Hereford Street, Silverberg said, so they could see the runners whiz by on their way to the finish line.

But as she and her friend stood there about 20 minutes with the other spectators cheering and enjoying the excitement of the day, a loud noise was heard, followed by a louder explosion 10 seconds later, she said.

At first no one made a move and the runners continued, Silverberg said. Police didn't seem to be responding to anything and revelers continued to watch and cheer, and maybe thought it was a cannon or fireworks for Patriots Day. "But it was too loud to be what I thought was a cannon. And they happened so close to each other," she said.

It soon became clear to her that something was wrong.

"All the emergency vehicles started coming; it was so fast," she said. "We weren't sure what was going on . . . people started yelling 'It's a terrorist attack!' "

Silverberg, a psychology counselor intern at a middle school, said that in 2010 she studied in Israel, where she was more mentally prepared for a possible terrorist attack.

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"But I never expected in Boston for something like that to happen," Silverberg said. "It's been really hard to process."