Boston Marathon Bombing – Part 4
The most surprising thing about having a bomb explode directly across the street from me was the utter and complete silence.
The bomb was loud of course. The sound of the blast reached my ears, what…nanoseconds from the moment of ignition. It was a crisp, loud, shattering thunder.
Then…nothing. Not a scream. Not a cry. Not a heartbeat. Not a breath.
One moment, I was watching the runners. Eyes focused on the middle of the street. Was I cheering someone on? Was I clapping? Was I watching quietly in awe of someone’s accomplishment? Was I staring unseeing, mind on something else?
Then…I lifted my gaze at the sound of the blast. A few clicks upward and there it was. Just at the height of the flags of the world, so proudly on their poles atop the fence that divided the runners and spectators A small cloud of white-gray-brown smoke. Small and distinct enough that it looked like a child’s drawing–an outline of softly curving, wavy edges, colored inexpertly but with the sure knowledge that this is exactly what a cloud looks like.
I watch it rush upwards to the second and third floors of the building behind it, then beyond. Spreading outward in all directions, becoming less a distinct cloud and more a thick gray, acrid smelling haze settling over everyone in the vicinity.
I watch the spectators on that side of the street. After what seemed like a moment of hesitation, people rush away from the site of the blast in waves, like ripples shattering a calm surface when a large stone is tossed carelessly into a pond. Then…emptiness. Where moments ago the other side of the street was a colorful and indistinct cheering crowd, it was now empty, hollow ground with people I cannot see, fallen behind the fencing, hidden from my view.
And still…I hear nothing.
I stand stock still and stare. My experience of the entire world around me has collapsed–it consists merely of the scene unfolding across from me. I am aware of no people near me. No sensations in my body. No pain. No complete or conscious thought. Nothing.
I see a woman standing alone, just to the left of where the bomb went off, in the mist of gray smoke, in front of a shattered window. A green-white pile of glass at her feet. The black, empty space behind her bordered on either side by the dark brown brick of the building, surrounded with glass still clinging to the frame, a grim, delicate white lace edging. It frames her–she is a picture in my mind. Inasmuch as I have any thought floating just beneath my consciousness, I cannot figure how she alone remains standing in that spot. So near to where a bomb just exploded.
Then, just about twelve seconds later from what I’ve learned since that day, I hear something again. Another crisp, loud, dull boom, echoing along the valley formed by the buildings that line Boylston Street. Another bomb, I know. Somewhere to my left. Not as near to me as the first one. But too close by miles. I turn my head, I’m certain nothing else could have moved.
I see a cloud of white-gray-brown smoke about halfway down the next block, on the other side of the street, same as the first bomb. By the time I hear the sound, the explosion is farther along, the cloud of smoke is higher and bigger than the first one. It has reached the third or fourth levels of that building. It is losing its distinct, childlike shape.
My mind clicks. I turn my gaze down–from the bomb blast down a street so familiar to me it forms the no longer noticed landscape of my daily life. I look to my friend sitting a couple feet away from me on my left. I sit down or partially sit or duck, I’m not really sure. We lock eyes and I’m sure the look of shock and confusion I see on her face is the look on my own. I grab her shoulder or her arm or something. A conscious thought forms: We have to get out of here.
Later I discovered that I actually said that to her. For a while I wasn’t sure I’d said it out loud–I didn’t hear my own voice.
For the past twelve seconds I had heard precisely two things–the loud hollow horrible sounds of two bombs exploding. The rest of the world was nothing but silence to me.