Dawn Cobak made the turn onto Boylston Street and was headed to the Boston Marathon finish line when the first bomb exploded.
“I almost thought it was fireworks,” she said.
When the second explosion followed moments later, the 42-year-old Beverly woman stopped in her tracks. This was louder and closer, with more fire and smoke.
“You knew people got hurt,” she said.
Still trying to process what was happening, Cobak was startled again. Marathoners up ahead were turning around and running back toward her. They were running away from the finish line. Many were “hysterical,” she said.
Standing in the road, Cobak thought of her husband and mother in the stands waiting for her to finish. They were right across from the blasts.
She took out her cellphone and started to text. Now, she was crying.
Salem fire Capt. Dennis Levasseur was also in the stands. He had gone to watch his fellow captain, Kevin Koen, run his first Boston Marathon.
Levasseur had worked security last year for the Boston Athletic Association in this same general area. As soon as he saw the blasts, he went to see if he could help, while his wife assisted elderly people out of the stands.
“I jumped over a fence and ran across to help out people who were injured,” he said.
“After 26 years being in the fire service, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Levasseur said. “There were quite a few critically injured people by the time I got there.”
The first responders were doing a good job of getting the badly injured over to a medical tent, Levasseur said.
Levasseur, an EMT, said he helped put people on backboards and in wheelchairs. It was like “war zone stuff,” he said.
“So many people were hurt ...” he said. “People were giving up their belts to use for tourniquets.”