, Salem, MA

April 17, 2013

Peter O'Connor and Donald Philpot: 'We just did what we're trained to do'

By Bethany Bray

---- — BEVERLY — Deputy fire Chief Peter O’Connor and Lt. Donald Philpot did not hesitate for a moment when asked if they’d return to volunteer at next year’s Boston Marathon.

“I’ll be back,” they both said yesterday.

O’Connor and Philpot are part of a group of Beverly firefighters who volunteer with a security crew at the corner of Boylston and Exeter streets each Boston Marathon.

Usually, they help with crowd control and give directions. This year, they clicked into gear as first responders after the first explosion went off roughly 25 yards away.

O’Connor described the injuries they saw as “pretty gruesome.”

“Everybody just jumped into the stuff we were trained to do,” said O’Connor, who has volunteered at the marathon for about 14 years. “Everybody went to someone that was injured. We just did what we’re trained to do.”

What stands out in both of their minds are the bystanders who headed toward the explosion to help, they said.

“The people that hadn’t had any training — everyone was wary of what else might be happening, but no one was concerned about that. They were trying to help make the situation better,” said O’Connor, who lives in Beverly.

Philpot said he took over working on a blast victim from a marathon runner who had run over to help.

“There really were a lot of people that moved toward the sound of destruction,” Philpot said. “... For me, (what stands out) was the response of the people who didn’t necessarily have any training. They went to help, they didn’t turn the other way — that was the impressive part.”

Philpot, a Georgetown resident, has volunteered at the marathon for about 10 years.

“When I looked over and saw the glass shattered on the building, I knew somebody had set off some type of explosive device,” Philpot said. “When the second one went off, I started thinking, ‘OK, how many more are there, and where are they?’”