A few months ago Bon Vital’ and the Massage Therapy Foundation contacted me, to see if I was interested in going to the Boston Marathon to shoot pictures and videos of the three runners that were Running for Research – Kathy Borsuk (Hillborough Massage Therapy), Tom Heidenberger (Bon Vital’) and Les Sweeney (ABMP). I was excited, because I’ve never been to the Boston Marathon before and I thought this was a chance of a lifetime. The MTF was able to get me VIP seating and I could be right at the finish line, so I could record all of the runners crossing the finish line.
The day before the marathon was a great day. The runners were all excited and a little nervous. We did some pre-event video and pictures and I even had them guess who of the three would finish first. We had a great dinner sponsored by Bon Vital’ that night and everyone tried to get a goodnight sleep. Paul Slomski (Development Manager at Massage Therapy Foundation) and I stayed up to meet Allissa Haines, who came into Boston for a visit. *(Kathy and Tom on April 14th)
I need to give you some personal background here. The start of April 15th was hard from the start, because 14 years ago, my family buried my sister who was killed by a drunk driver on April 12th in 1999. She was 17 years old and only 2 months away from graduating high school. The drunk driver was driving in the wrong direction on the highway and a car in front on my sister swerved at the last second and my sister didn’t even have time to react. She was a organ donor and the only things we were able to donate were her corneas (everything else was not usable). The drunk driver served only 4 years and I heard from some friends, that he started drinking right after he got out of jail. April 15 is a tough day for me. *(Beth Ann Hoyme, Killed April 12th, 1999)
Now, back to the race day. Paul and I got up at 6am to wish Tom good-luck. We were a little bummed that we couldn’t be at the start of the race, but with 27,000 runners, the logistics were difficult, so we didn’t complain. Paul worked out that morning and I went to work editing pictures and videos I shot the previous day. Then, around noon both Paul and I headed to the finish line. We grabbed a cab and the driver took us to the finish line, but after we left the cab, we realized it was the wrong side of the street. Luckily, we had some time and after asking 10+ people how to get to the other side and walking about 15 blocks, we managed to get over to the grandstands. We had a couple of hours to wait, before the runners would cross the finish line and we waited in the stands and I wandered around taking pictures. We downloaded the Boston Marathon app and we could tell how close they were (there were 4 different check-points) and the app would tell us when they crossed each one. *(This was the last check-point all three runners passed)
At 2:49pm EST, I tested my video camera and played back the video to make sure it was good. Then, at 2:51pm EST a loud noise right across from us went off and a huge puff of white smoke.
At first I thought it was fireworks. I didn’t know what to expect at the marathon, because I’ve never been to one. I turned on my video camera right after that and noticed people lying on the ground and then I captured the second bomb on video. There was chaos going on in the stands and the security guards were directing us into safety. I tried to videotape as long as I could, before they escorted us off the stands. The security guards and police did an awesome job at controlling the situation after the bombs happened. Paul and I saw bodies lying on the street after the white smoke settled. *(Screenshot of the video I shot of the second bomb)
Right after that, we were taken out of the area and I took some pictures of people being evacuated in wheelchairs and stretchers. One of the people was missing both of his legs and all I could see is a tibia bone (I will not post those pictures).
*(Left – Picture of Krystle Campbell, just minutes before she was killed)
*(Right – Picture of Jeff Bauman, just minutes before he lost his legs)
*(Bottom – Picture I took at 2:43pm EST, of the crowd of people where the first bomb went off)
**Click on any picture to enlarge it.
It was a horrible experience and I can’t even imagine what the victims and family members are going through. I posted on my facebook profile, that there were two bombs that just went off at the Boston Marathon and my neighbor saw my post and contacted me right away through facebook (her husband is a meteorologist in the city where I live in) and asked me if I wanted to share my experience with the local news station. I told her I would do a phone interview in a couple of hours and I told her I would send her the video I shot, once I can get a computer and internet connection.
Allissa Haines saw my post and was making sure everyone was accounted for and she flooded facebook to let people know we were all right, once everyone was accounted for. *(I did a screenshot of this, but it shows CST, so it was actually 2:52pm EST)
Paul and I started looking for a cab right after that, and we couldn’t find one anywhere (he carried my bag most of the way, because I was trying to take pictures and messaging/calling my friends and relatives). The phone service wasn’t that good and only a few text messages went through and I finally got a hold of my wife to let her know I was ok. She was on another line and told me that she would call me right back, but then I told her about the bombings and she immediately turned on the t.v. and was just thankful I wasn’t harmed. So, we started walking many blocks and finally found a place we could stay for a while.
Flann O’Briens was a bar we stopped at (all the other places were at full capacity) and they went above and beyond helping us. They found out that I shot some video of the tragedy and they even gave me their computer to upload my footage. They must have known somebody at the BBC, because they had me do a phone interview with them. I then uploaded the video to my facebook page (5:45pm EST), and soon after that to my YouTube channel.
*(Here is the video I shot)
After that, I kept getting emails from news stations from all over the US and the world, for permission to use my footage I shot. I didn’t even think about it for a second and gave everyone permission to use it (it was viewed on CNN, MSNBC, ESPN and all the other major networks). Some people afterwards told me, why don’t you sell your footage to the news stations, but I could never do that. I uploaded the video to my dropbox and sent some of the news stations a link (I didn’t have my computer, so I couldn’t upload it to my server). After a few hours I got a message that my dropbox was suspended, because there was too much public traffic to the video that I uploaded.
I then got emails and calls from all over, asking if I could do phone interviews. The BBC interviewed me 3 times; Ireland, Australia, Canada and others I can’t remember interviewed me. I was functioning on total adrenalin and nothing really sank in at this point. I also got an email from the Katie Couric Show and they wanted me to do a Skype interview, but I told them I had my flight scheduled for early the next morning on the 16th. Then told me they would fly me to her studio and then back home.
I contacted the local police that night, to let them know I had videos and pictures throughout the day of the first bombing site. They called the FBI and Homeland Security and I met with them soon afterwards and gave them copies of everything I shot.
April 15th, I was only able to get an hour of sleep, because news agencies kept calling and I was still running on adrenalin, so I did all the interviews (over 25 of them). Then I got up at 4am on the 16th, to catch a flight to the Katie Couric Show. Her staff went above and beyond in helping me feel comfortable and they even ordered two meals for me (one by mistake). There was a lot of action before they went live and I was scheduled to go on at 12:30pm EST. They said the show is usually recorded and a week later they release it, but since they wanted to get the show out right away, they recorded it and aired it two hours later. I was too exhausted to be nervous about being on the show, but after the taping it all hit me and I started feeling guilty for having these sad thoughts about the ordeal.
*(On the Katie Couric Show April 16th)
I got on a plane back to Minnesota and I couldn’t sleep, because of all the thoughts running through my head. When I got back to Minnesota, my family was at the airport to pick me up. We went to Cherry Berry (Yogurt Bar) to celebrate my return and I was too wiped out to feel any enjoyment.
I realized on Wednesday that I made a whole bunch of international calls. I called AT&T and told them my situation and they waived all my fees (they said they usually don’t do that, but this was a special circumstance). I’ve hated AT&T up until this moment and they really stepped up to the plate.
I slept most of the night on my first night back, but I got up a couple of times breaking out in sweats (I’m still getting them). I’ve been feeling like crap, so I made an appointment with a psychologist (earliest time I could get is in a few weeks). I was totally overwhelmed with all the support on my facebook profile, twitter and my facebook page. I want to thank everyone for everything you have done to support me and the other people affected by this, and even though I haven’t met most of you in person, I really feel a connection with all of you. On April 17th I had to disconnect from facebook for a while, because I just needed time with my family.
Some of the “what ifs” running through my head:
· If we didn’t arrive early to the finish line, Paul and I would be right in the area where the first bomb went off.
· There were reports of other bombs and one report said; that there was a bomb under our grandstand…luckily it wasn’t true.
· Just ten minutes before the first bomb went off, I was taking pictures in other areas.
I know and understand the lasting trauma of an experience like this, that’s why I’m getting some help. I wanted to tell you my story here, partly because it’s healing to me, also because it’s tough to have to repeat it over and over to people. I hope you understand when I ask that you let me get through this, and don’t approach me with questions about the experience for a while. I honestly would love to respond to each and everyone one of you, but at this time, I’m going through too much and I need to take care of myself.
If there was any positives out of this day, is that the Massage Therapy Foundation raised over $50,000 and all of us were unharmed. So many people have said that my sister was my guardian angel and she was watching over me that day.
I’ve been having a lot of mixed emotions after they caught the 2nd suspect. From joy, to anger and everything in between. I’m not looking forward to the trial, because after my sister was killed, the trial lasted about a year and I had to keep reliving it.
I never realized what people who have witnessed these traumatic events felt, until it happened to me. Luckily, I’m scheduled to get help soon and I don’t want it to affect my work and home life.
P.S. Thank you, Allissa Haines for editing this post…I was in no shape to edit it.
P.S.S. I’m so relieved that none of the other people I know where injured, that were there (Leslie Young, Cliff Korn, Drew Freeman, Mary White and all the others).