Rockville man describes ‘panic’ in Boston following marathon explosions -- Gazette.Net


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This story was updated at 6:20 p.m. on April 15, 2013.

Dan DiFonzo of Rockville said he was sitting in a Boston restaurant having a few celebratory drinks after completing the Boston Marathon when a couple people they were with said they “heard two large explosions.”

DiFonzo and several other runners from the Montgomery County Road Runners Club sat watching live television feed of the “panic” happening just outside their window.

Two explosions sounded near the finish line of the more than 26-mile road race about 2 p.m. Monday afternoon, the race’s four-hour mark. So far, at least two people have been reported dead, and the Boston Globe reported more than 100 people injured. While some people had finished the race before the blasts, the Globe reports that 4,496 runners did not cross the finish line.

Two other explosives were located nearby the site of the first two blasts and were dismantled, according to reports. A third blast was reported at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, though authorities have not said whether it is related to the two explosions at the race.

The roads, DiFonzo said, were filled with ambulances and other emergency vehicles, and police were funneling people away from the street, not letting anyone close to the location of the explosions. He called the area “cellphone bedlam,” noting that many Verizon phone users have been unable to get service.

“There’s quite a bit of panic here. People don’t know whether they’re still safe,” DiFonzo told The Gazette.

DiFonzo said he still could hear sirens outside his hotel.

The uncertainty of whether they are still safe has left many “hysterical,” DiFonzo said. While they do not know how this will affect their plans to travel home, he said everyone remains concerned about the well-being of fellow runners, volunteers and spectators.

“It’s a little surreal that it’s happening so close to us,” DiFonzo said.

Marie Archer of Berwyn Heights said she had just crossed the marathon’s finish line about three minutes before she heard two loud explosions.

“Suddenly, it was just like hell broke loose,” said Archer, 41. “I saw families looking frantically for their husbands, and there were children crying and policemen diverting people to other places. It was just an intense nightmare.”

Archer said her husband was waiting for her at the finish line but decided to walk toward their hotel due to the crowds of people to meet Archer when she finished.

“I thought, if I had been three to four minutes slower, I would have probably been in the blast,” Archer said. “It was just a beautiful day. It was a perfect running day. ... If you’re a runner, running in the Boston Marathon is a big deal. You take pride in it. But right now, there’s nothing. There’s nothing to celebrate. I’m so overwhelmed and sad.”

Karen Kincer of the Montgomery County Road Runners Club said they are doing the best they can to gather information about each of their runners. She said people are “shaken but OK.”

Andrew Winter, principal at Lucy Barnsley Elementary School in Rockville, completed Monday’s race and called to confirm he was OK, said Dana Tofig, director for Montgomery County Public School’s public information office.

Kevin Yates, an assistant principal at James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring, also was reported to be “safe and sound” by a fellow staff member via Facebook.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced Monday afternoon that “Metro Transit Police day-side officers are being held on duty until further notice.” Additional patrols will be on site through rush hour.

“Metro Transit Police are continuing to monitor events in Boston,” according to the release, noting customers should report suspicious activity or unattended packages by calling 202-962-2121.

Officer Janelle Smith, a spokeswoman for Montgomery County Police, said Monday afternoon the department is not taking any special precaution. Julie Parker, spokeswoman for Prince George’s County Police tweeted the department is “increasing patrols near all critical infrastructures in the county in response to the Boston Marathon explosions.”

Lt. Bill Alexander, a Prince George’s County police spokesman, said he expects the command staff to keep additional officers on patrols throughout the night and then reassess Tuesday to determine what type of policing and surveillance is needed.

“We’ll go at least into the night. If intel shows that something else is going on, then we’ll reevaluate,” Alexander said.

Pamela Geernaert, president of the Frederick Steeplechasers Running Club, said all six of the group’s members who were running in the marathon are accounted for. Geernaert and a few of her fellow county runners were about a quarter mile from the finish line, retrieving their clothes from a charter bus, when they first heard the explosions.

“It was just the loudest boom I’ve ever seen and a big gray puff of smoke,” she said. “It was really scary.”

This year’s race was Geernaert’s fourth time running in the Boston Marathon.

“I’m not doing it again next year,” she said.

Boston Police are asking for information leading to arrest at 1-800-494-TIPS. Families trying to locate victims can call 617-635-4500, visit the American Red Cross’ website or use Google’s person finder.

krose@gazette.net

Staff Writers Morgan Young and Daniel J. Gross contributed to this article.