Margaritas for breakfast, ordered by the pitcher load to dull the mild hangover that was chipping away at my grey matter. “It’s a Marathon Monday tradition”, I was told, as I slugged it down with one beefy firewood fajita and the Everest pile of sweet potato fries. The window seats in Cactus Club, on the corner of Boylston Street, were rammed, so we perched on our toes to cheer as the first wheel chairs bolted around the corner and hit the 25.2 mile mark, pulling themselves through that last agonising leg. My head reeled with it. It was more than impressive.
There was an electric hum running the route, twisting every face up into that big American grin as the sun beat down from a completely clear sky. It was the perfect day for the Boston Marathon. We headed outside to watch the first women round the corner, soon to be peppered with the first male champions and weighed-down walkers for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Our plan was to bar hop to the finish line but we only made it half a block to The Pour House, a busy little American-style bar with neon signs on the exposed brick walls and a few girls crunking away in the corner. We had adopted a leisurely pace, made all the more lazy by the impressive lean legs and muscles that passed us. They travelled that half a block in thirty seconds, compared to our three hours. But no one could have predicted how happy we would be to come in on a slower time.
The Pour House was about a block and a half from where the explosions occurred, but all we heard was the loud mash-up of everything American-pop strumming away in our eardrums. Then followed the confusion. All over the bar people started to shout that there was a fight outside and, similar to how this news goes down in school, a tumble occurred towards the door, to see who was getting beaten up. Then, only seconds later, the red and blue strobes of police started to shoot furiously down the road outside. It was the road that was blocked off for the marathon, the road where the runners were supposed to be. And that’s when it hit. Something was seriously up.
The American’s in our group sprinted to the door, with all the speed of Lelisa Desisa. But my first thought wasn’t ‘bomb’ or ‘terrorist attack’ but ‘I need to finish my drink. I paid for that’, so I downed it in one and made my tipsy way out onto a panicked street. Bouncers as big as bulls were roaring at us to ‘get moving’ and ‘keep going’ and suddenly the police were there too, bellowing to evacuate the area, and fast. There were too many people to see anything, moving in a thick tidal wave away from the scene, and I didn’t want to look too hard anyway. I lost everyone in the rush, except one English friend, and we walked quickly, burning down a few dozen cigarettes as we went in shock.
The atmosphere was eerily quiet. No one was talking but everyone was on his or her phones, desperately trying to figure out what was going on or to reach loved ones. The news wasn’t far from television sets across the Atlantic. Shaken people were crying and people were praying, kneeling down on the side of the road or holding hands in small groups. No one knew what was happening and people kept saying there was going to be another explosion. I squeezed my friend’s palm hard. We walked hand in hand all the way home, the long way around, holding on to each other until we got back to where we were staying.
We switched on the TV. It was only when I called my mum later, who was outside gardening and had no idea anything had happened, that I burst into tears.