Boston Marathon explosions kill at least 3; Austinites share first-hand accounts

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Photo Credit: The Associated Press

An explosion rocked the renowned Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon, with the aftermath affecting the city and extending to the UT campus.

As of press time, three people were killed — including an 8-year-old boy — and at least 144 people were injured after two bombs detonated at the race. At least two additional bombs were later found near the site, but were safely disarmed.  

As of press time, it was unclear who is responsible for placing the explosives and no individual or group had taken responsibility. The criminal investigation of the attack is being headed by the FBI and is being treated as an act of terrorism. At a press conference, President Barack Obama expressed his confidence in determining responsibility. 

“We will find out who did this. We’ll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups, will feel the full weight of justice,” Obama said. 

Several members of the UT and Austin communities were in Boston for the 117-year-old event, including Spencer Buxton, a mechanical engineering junior and member of the Texas Running Club. Buxton said he was already back in his hotel room by the time the explosion went off.

“My mom and aunt had gotten through four minutes before everything started happening, so they were trying to get their bags and said they turned around and saw a lot of people running and smoke everywhere,” Buxton said. “I didn’t even know anything was going down before they got to the hotel room and told me about it.”

The event, known as the world’s oldest annual marathon, attracts runners from around the globe. To compete in the marathon, participants must be at least 18 years old and meet a qualifying time corresponding to their age group and gender. Almost 27,000 qualified for the race, including 187 from Austin. 

Austin resident Scott Case, 25, said he did not hear about the explosions until he got back to his friend’s apartment and saw it on television.

“The apartment is about a mile away from the finish line, so we went up to the rooftop,” Case said. “We saw four helicopters in the air, could see the scene.”

Cell phone reception was down for a period of time soon after the explosion, making contacting runners difficult. Journalism junior Jennifer Berke did not run in the race, but her dad did.

“Thank goodness [my dad is] fine,” Berke said. “He said a lot of things happening tonight were canceled in the city. He was supposed to fly back to Texas tomorrow, and we’re just trying to figure out if he’s going to be able to. I was scared out of my mind and I’m glad my dad is OK.”

The bombs went off about four hours into the race, by which time about three-quarters of the runners had already finished. 

The explosion sparked heightened security measures across the world, including tightened security at airports, government buildings and landmarks. The event also took place near the anniversaries of several U.S. tragedies, including the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 and the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995.

UTPD Communications Operator Jim Schock said officials said they will be “keeping abreast” of the situation and will monitor any developments in Boston.
According to Schock, UTPD has no reason to believe there is any connection between last week’s non-specific bomb threat on UT campus and the events in Boston.

Local officials also expressed sympathy and support for those affected by the explosions, and members of the UT Guild of Student Carillonneurs will play in remembrance of victims at the Tower at 1:45 p.m.

“The scene at the Boston Marathon today is a sobering vision for us all, especially those who have friends or loved ones competing in today’s race,” Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all those injured in the explosions, along with the first responders who braved danger to help get the wounded to safety.”

The marathon is held on Patriots’ Day, which commemorates the first battles of the American Revolution in 1775. Biology senior Patrick Hunt ran the marathon and said he left the scene 45 minutes before the explosions. Hunt said the city really embraces the marathoners and the entire holiday, but the explosions destroyed the city’s mood.

“After the explosions, it seemed as though the spirits dropped,” Hunt said. “Everyone I talked to kept saying that it made them sad and that it made them sick. They would check the news on smartphones but then turn away and say that it made them sick. It was truly sad to see something so beautiful destroyed in the midst of the excitement.”

Steven Moore, a project manager in the department of chemistry and biochemistry, had finished running the race and was five blocks away when he heard the explosion. Moore, who was with his wife, described the aftermath of the explosion as “mayhem.”

“Many sullen faces and expressions of shock and anger in the crowds,” Moore said. “Such a fun day of joyous unison until an evil coward shows their insanity.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in compiling this report. Additional reporting by Christine Ayala, Elyana Barrera, Bobby Blanchard, Hannah Jane DeCiutiis, Trey Scott and Sarah White.

Printed on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 as Bombings shake Boston