San Diegans React to Boston Marathon Explosions

Within minutes, one San Diegan went from the thrill of setting a personal record to shock and sadness

Spectators and runners are describing the twin explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday.

Special Coverage: Terror in Boston

NBC 7 San Diego checked the registration website and found at least 126 runners from our area received bib numbers for the race, with additional San Diegans visiting Boston for the event.

Maureen Cottrell finished the race about 18 minutes before the bombs went off and was still very close to the finish line when she heard and felt the explosions.

"It felt like it was happening in slow motion watching the smoke go up," she said. "People had their head on other people's shoulders. They were crying. They were staring up at the tv screen, just complete devastation."

Courtney Johnson was about a half mile from finishing when the Boston Athletic Association shut the race down.

"I kept thinking I'm just going to go until they stop us, especially being so close to the end. When they did stop us, my first thought was 'oh my god, my parents were going to the finish line," Johnson said.

"They put a barricade up, stopped runners and had us all grouped in one area," she said. "People were crying, people were panicked because all we'd heard was they blew up the finish line."

Watch: Raw Video Boston Bombings

San Diegans Scott Thompson and Paull Connolly shared this photo (right) of their race experience as they posed in front of medical tent following the race.

Both men finished the race before the explosions took place in the same vicinity where this photo was taken.

When the first explosion happened, Thompson said the ground shook from the force.

"We saw a family with two young children that had been right next to where the explosion hit. And you just saw the terror and fear in their faces. The kids were crying. Mom and Dad were crying. It was tough," Thompson said. 

Warning Graphic Images

Local runner Jim McNevin, who has participated in the annual marathon many times, said he had just run a personal record and went from extreme happiness to shock over the tragedy.

“I'm at a loss for words. I'm extremely upset,” McNevin said.

When he spoke with NBC 7 San Diego Monday he was still trying to find members of his running group.

“Most of the people coming from that area they are in total disbelief of what’s actually just transpired,” McNevin said.

San Diegan Mitch Nodland finished the marathon in 3 hours 27 seconds and proudly posted his "after" photo online. “Crowds were insane,” he posted to Facebook.

Then, moments later he shared the news with his followers, “Big explosion at the Boston marathon finish line. Race course is shut down. Injured being taken to medical tents, area locked down.” 

NBC 7 San Diego producer Nina Martensson, who was also on the scene, said she heard two loud booms barely ten seconds apart and saw people running down the streets.

San Diego native Amanda Fields works at the One Exeter Plaza building located directly above the finish line. Her office hosts a marathon watching party every year and about 20-25 people were in the office celebrating their city’s big event.

Fields said all of a sudden they heard the explosion below and the glass windows inside the office shattered.

“I think everyone was a little bewildered at first, we didn’t know whether to stay in the building or leave the building,” she said. “We were wondering is it better to stay inside? Or go outside? Will there be another explosion?”

No one was hurt inside Fields' office and the group quickly evacuated the building. She said since it’s a holiday in Boston, many people had the day off.

New Poway school trustee Kimberley Beatty crossed the finished line just about 6 minutes before the blast.

She says she was about 100 yards when she heard the explosion.

"The first one just sounded like a loud gun. My husband described it as a cannon," she said. "I was sort of just dazed and confused afterwards."

On San Diego radio Tuesday, morning personality and Boston native Frankie V. talked to his childhood friend who ran in the marathon.

The blast happened as the DJ’s friend “Timmy V.” made the turn to the home stretch on Bolyston Street. He witnessed the explosions and was not injured in the incident.

“That sounded just like an 18-wheeler that dropped its cargo,” he recalls thinking when he heard the first blast.

He found his parents waiting near the finish line and then heard the second explosion.

“The entire area in front of me was a cloud of white smoke,” he said.

He said the response by the Boston police department was calm and orderly.

“I can’t even watch the news because it’s making me upset,” he said on 933 Tuesday. “I get pretty worked up just talking with you guys.” 

Richard Nares with the Emilio Nares Foundation had qualified, registered and was set to go to Boston to compete but at the last minute decided to sit the race out.

He told NBC 7 San Diego he decided it would be best to not run the Boston course because he’ll be participating in a big race from San Francisco to San Diego in a few weeks.

Dan Cruz with Competitor Racing, the group that puts on Rock n Roll marathons, was at the finish line with his team and was shocked by what he saw.

“Our hearts and thoughts are with the victims, their families and all those affected,” Cruz told NBC 7 San Diego.

“Out of respect to the Boston Marathon and the Boston Athletic Association, we will not be providing any additional comments at this time other than to say that we are working closely with our partners, both government agencies and law enforcement, to immediately review security protocol and safety procedures,” he added.

San Diego resident Randy Rechs returned home Monday from Boston unable to run because of injuries and said he's worried about his friends.

"I'm freaking out right now," he said "I've been trying to reach them but all I get is voice mail."

Rechs said he had tickets for the grandstand which is just across the street from where the explosion happened.

Olympic runner Meb Keflezighi said he was in the grand stand area cheering on racers when he decided to leave because he was cold. Five minutes later the explosions occurred.

“That was God watching for me personally because I got cold. The only reason I left is that I got cold,” he said. “Otherwise I would have sit there and would be the tragic moment of it.”

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