It wasn't until Lauren Vogric saw the faces of people fleeing from the finish line area of the Boston Marathon that she said she knew, truly knew, something was wrong.
The Nassau County native and her dorm mates from Northeastern University were working as volunteers in an area about 500 feet from the finish line Monday, handing out food and water to runners exiting the race. She'd heard the initial blast. She thought it was a celebratory cannon.
Vogric said Tuesday she had no idea at the time that it was the first of two bomb blasts that left three dead and more than 175 injured, some critically.
"I saw the blast and all that smoke," Vogric, 19, a native of Massapequa who still has friends and family in Valley Stream, Hicksville, Wantagh and Freeport. "At first we heard it, but it didn't sound like a bomb. It sounded like a cannon . . . Or, maybe a transformer explosion, something like that . . . Then people froze, they actually froze, and didn't know what to do. One of the other volunteers started shouting at everyone, yelling not to panic. A couple of moments later I saw two of my friends, working at a table near mine, and they had looks of terror. It put me off . . . Just the looks on everyone's face made me know there was something terribly wrong."
Vogric, a sophomore at Northeastern who moved to Wilton, Conn., from Massapequa when she was in the seventh grade, said everyone in her group of dorm mates was fortunate. No one was injured.
But she said she saw some of the wounded. And, she saw the faces of runners who'd just run a marathon and who, exhausted from that, still summoned the energy to run from the scene.
"They just had this unified look on their faces," she said. "Like, 'this isn't right.'
"All I could think," she said, "was we need to clear this area."
When Vogric and her friends, all wearing yellow race jackets and carrying ID lanyards, managed to meet up amid the chaos, she said the first reaction was to call or text friends and family -- to let everyone know they were OK.
But, service was near-impossible, she said, adding: "It was probably more terrorizing because we couldn't get hold of anyone."
Finally, Vogric said, one of her friends managed to talk to her mother, who explained scores of people were headed to area hospitals.
"That's when it got really scary," Vogric said. "My friend said, 'I just want to make sure I tell my mother I love her.'"
Vogric said that when she and her friends got back to campus, a friend just came up -- and hugged her.
"We were just lucky," Vogric said, "that we weren't 500 feet closer."