Joshua Quinones, who graduated from UNC in the spring, said he was only a block from the explosion.
Quinones works in the Boston area and was planning on enjoying a family meal in the city after a Red Sox game.
He and his family skirted the crowd of marathon spectators and ducked into a side street when the ground began to shake and the panic began.
“I didn’t let myself think it was anything bad until I saw people running and crying and police came and ushered us from the scene,” he said. “There was chaos and panic everywhere.”
Dr. Peter Leone, a professor in UNC’s School of Medicine, said his third time running the marathon ended in tragedy.
“A day of celebration turned into a national tragedy,” he said.
“This will forever change the race and puts a damper on everything,” he said. “I’ll never think about my time. I’ll think about the lives that were lost and people injured.”
The Boston Marathon attracted 23,000 runners this year, according to the Associated Press.
President Barack Obama said in a press conference Monday night that the Department of Homeland Security and FBI were still investigating the source of the bombings.
“Make no mistake — we will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this; we’ll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice,” he said.
Leone said there is always a lot of security at the event, but the large crowds can create a disordered atmosphere.
“The area is pretty open — anyone could walk into the stands. I could see how someone could bring in a portable explosive device,” Leone said.
Laura Maile, a professor in the School of Medicine, said she was looking forward to running the marathon this year with her friends.
“We’re just devastated, absolutely devastated. At the beginning, we had a moment of silence for families of Sandy Hook, and it’s just hard to believe that the Boston Marathon now has its own tragedy.”
Lauren Gurschick, a graduate student in the nursing program who ran the marathon for the first time, said she would run the marathon again.
“I’m pretty shaken up, but I would absolutely run Boston again. That’s not a question. It is the Boston Marathon, that will never change. I will certainly never forget what happened.”
After the explosion, there was an outpouring of support online for marathon participants, and Boston-area residents began to donate blood.
Quinones said that despite the horror he experienced, the response gave him hope.
“It was a small bit of comfort to know that there were people thinking about us when this was happening.”
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