ATLANTA - A local woman was half a mile from making history when two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon injured more than 140 people and killed three, including an 8-year-old.
Two bombs exploded in the packed streets near the finish line of the marathon in a terrifying scene of shattered glass, billowing smoke, bloodstained pavement and severed limbs, authorities said.
Channel 2’s Lori Geary spoke to Jaillene Hunter Monday evening. Her sister, Juli Windsor, would have been the first little person to finish the Boston Marathon. Windsor recently moved temporarily to Boston from Marietta.
Hunter, who was following the marathon from Marietta, told Geary their mother was waiting at the finish line for Windsor when the bombs went off.
“I was actually watching the live feed because I was anticipating when she was going to come in with her time and just about when she was hoping to come in with her time, I noticed,” Hunter said.
Windsor, 26, has a rare form of dwarfism, and at 3 feet 9 inches tall, she would have made history if she had crossed the finish line, but she was running just behind her pace.
“I noticed ambulances and fire trucks and the like. I got extremely concerned. It was a long afternoon until we heard she was safe and sound,” Hunter said.
Windsor was about half a mile from the finish line when the bombs went off.
“They stopped everyone and said, ‘No one can go any further. There’s been an explosion. The race is canceled,” Windsor told Geary by phone.
“My goal for finishing was 4:15. Had I made that goal, which I didn’t, I would have been there right as the explosion happened.”
Hunter said her family members were initially waiting on the side where the bombs went off, but they moved when they got word that Windsor would be coming in on the other side.
Their mother, Anita Erickson, suffered a minor shoulder injury as people were pushed around after the explosion. She is a school nurse at Otwell Middle School in Cumming.
Hunter said she does not expect Monday’s tragedy to distract her sister from her goal of more than 10 years.
“I think she’ll be back to do it again, and I think it was a good lesson for all of us. That we’re not in control and we don’t get to number our days,” Hunter said.
Channel 2’s Tony Thomas spoke to a Cobb County man who had been at the scene just an hour before the bombs exploded.
Danny Bourgeois credits good luck that he was at both the Boston bombings and in Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 bombing, but avoided injury both times.
Bourgeois told Thomas he decided to leave for the airport early Monday afternoon, but he had been in the same spot where one of the bombs exploded in front of the Marathon Sports running store near the finish line.
He was in Boston with a business partner to promote their Louisiana Marathon, which will be held next January. He expects more runners will want to participate in marathons to take a stand and say they will not back down from a sport they love.
“I think people are going to come back stronger. I think we don’t like to give up and we don’t like to have cowards win,” Bourgeois said.
Metro Atlanta runners describe scene at Boston Marathon
Officials told Channel 2 Action News that 363 Georgians were registered for the race, which had 23,000 participants.
Channel 2's Jodie Fleischer spoke on the phone to an Atlanta-area resident who participated in the marathon.
Christy Duffner said the finish line was packed with thousands of people all cheering when she crossed it. She heard the explosions from her hotel room about a block from the finish line.
"I was getting ready in my hotel room and it just sounded really like a plane crash outside. Two, two very, very loud booms. We actually ran into a runner on my floor of the hotel who had just finished and he was getting a banana, and the explosion happened literally 100 yards from him and he said it almost knocked him off the ground," Duffner said.
"You must be thinking, ‘Gosh what if I was an hour slower?”’ Fleischer asked.
"No, I can't, I can't even imagine that. Like I said, they're not letting us leave. Just leave the emotions that are going on here in the lobby are, people are crying and upset and it's just been a really, really tough day.”
Channel 2's Tony Thomas spoke to the owner the Wrecking Bar Brew Pub on Moreland Avenue in northeast Atlanta.
Bob Sandage said he had just met with his family at the finish line, got his medal, and was about to get on a train about a quarter-mile away when he heard two blasts.
"Yeah, I just finished about 20 minutes before and I had picked up my clothing and got my water and my medal. I met up with my family and was just heading up towards the train station and heard two explosions, each followed by about you know, 10 seconds apart," Sandage said.
"We heard the first one and thought maybe it was a Patriot Day reenactment, some kind of cannon [it] was so loud. I didn't think it was. I just heard an explosion that rocked the ground. It sounded like a cannon but probably ten times as loud and we knew," he said.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed issued the following statement.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the City of Boston today and all those who have been affected by today's tragic events. I am deeply saddened to hear of the loss of life and injuries suffered by so many people. Here at home, the City of Atlanta's First Responders are currently taking additional measures to enhance the safety of our citizens and protect them from senseless acts of violence."
Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh and Craig Lucie are in Boston. Stay with Channel 2 Action News for updates on this developing story and follow us on Twitter.
Barack Obama: ‘We will get to the bottom of this’
At the White House, President Barack Obama vowed that those responsible will "feel the full weight of justice."
There was no word on the motive or who may have launched the attack, and police said no suspect was in custody.
Authorities in Washington said there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis asked people to stay indoors or go back to their hotel rooms and avoid crowds as bomb squads methodically checked parcels and bags left along the race route. He said investigators didn't know whether the bombs were planted in mailboxes or trash cans.
He said authorities had received "no specific intelligence that anything was going to happen" at the race.
The Federal Aviation Administration barred low-flying aircraft from within 3.5 miles of the site.
Obama was briefed on the explosions by Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco. Obama also told Mayor Tom Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick that his administration would provide whatever support was needed, White House spokesmen said.
"We still don't know who did this or why," Obama said, adding, "Make no mistake: We will get to the bottom of this."
A few miles away from the finish line and around the same time, a fire broke out at the John F. Kennedy Library. The police commissioner said it may have been caused by an incendiary device but didn't appear to be related to the bombings.
The scene of the explosion
About four hours into the race and two hours after the men's winner crossed the line, there was a loud explosion on the north side of Boylston Street, just before the photo bridge that marks the finish line. Another explosion could be heard a few seconds later.
By that point, more than 17,000 of the runners had finished the race, but thousands of others were farther back along the course.
"There are people who are really, really bloody," said Laura McLean, a runner from Toronto, who was in the medical tent being treated for dehydration when she was pulled out to make room for victims.
A senior U.S. intelligence official said the two other explosive devices found nearby were being dismantled. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the findings publicly.
A woman who was a few feet from the second bomb, Brighid Wall, 35, of Duxbury, said that when it exploded, runners and spectators froze, unsure of what to do. Her husband threw their children to the ground, lay on top of them and another man lay on top of them and said, "Don't get up, don't get up."
After a minute or so without another explosion, Wall said, she and her family headed to a Starbucks and out the back door through an alley. Around them, the windows of the bars and restaurants were blown out.
She said she saw six to eight people bleeding profusely, including one man who was kneeling, dazed, with blood coming down his head. Another person was on the ground covered in blood and not moving.
"My ears are zinging. Their ears are zinging. It was so forceful. It knocked us to the ground."
Competitors and race volunteers were crying as they fled the chaos. Authorities went onto the course to carry away the injured while race stragglers were rerouted away from the smoking site.
Roupen Bastajian, a 35-year-old state trooper from Smithfield, R.I., had just finished the race when they put the heat blanket wrap on him and he heard the blasts.
"I started running toward the blast. And there were people all over the floor," he said. "We started grabbing tourniquets and started tying legs. A lot of people amputated. ... At least 25 to 30 people have at least one leg missing, or an ankle missing, or two legs missing."
Smoke rose from the blasts, fluttering through the national flags lining the route. Blood stained the pavement in the popular shopping and tourist area known as the Back Bay.
Cherie Falgoust was waiting for her husband, who was running the race.
"I was expecting my husband any minute," she said. "I don't know what this building is ... It just blew. Just a big bomb, a loud boom, and then glass everywhere. Something hit my head. I don't know what it was. I just ducked."
Runners who had not finished the race were diverted straight down Commonwealth Avenue and into a family meeting area, according to an emergency plan that had been in place.
The Boston Marathon honored the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting with a special mile marker in Monday's race.
Boston Athletic Association President Joanne Flaminio previously said there was "special significance" to the fact that the race is 26.2 miles long and 26 people died at Sandy Hook Elementary school.