Boston Bombings: Account of Saudi Eyewitness

Wael Omar Moathen is a Saudi student in Boston who posted this account of his experience at the bombings that took place near the finish line of Boston Marathon yesterday:

Boston Marathon is the oldest in the world. This year’s race is the 117th in its history. For the people of Boston, it is a holiday and a day of happiness. Like any human being who lives in this city, I picked up my camera and headed to Mile 26, the last mile in the race. I was taking photos and enjoying the cheers. My friend Mohammad Bokhari called me asking about my location. Coincidentally I was standing opposite to him, and we were talking about how to meet because the race is between us. Suddenly, we heard the sound of an explosion. A very loud sound that felt as if it was inside our hearts, so loud that it felt as if it was coming from everywhere. I noticed that the bombing was before me on the opposite sidewalk but on the right side near the finish line. I could not comprehend what happened. I tried to understand it but I couldn’t. I was still on the phone with Mohammad. Suddenly, another explosion blasted before me and right next to Mohammad. I saw the sparks fly and smoke rises with my own eyes. People started to run. We ran to the opposite direction of the marathon, heading to entrances of the nearest hotels and shops on the sides of Boylston St. Even the runners were jumping the fence and running with us. Then I saw everything possible beneath me. I saw a woman that I almost ran over, and I thought for a moment: should I help her or keep running. It seems that the survival instinct was stronger than chivalry. People were screaming and crying. I was worried that I was running to the location of another bomb. I reached the entrance of a hotel and saw that some people refused to enter because it is a high building. The memories of a previous attack came to them. I entered the hotel. It was full of people. Children in severe panic and tears. Everyone asking about who they are missing of their family and friends. I remembered that Mohammad was on the phone before the call dropped. I called him. He did not pick up!!! He later called and said he was fine. When you are in the scene, you don’t know what will happen. That was clear on the faces of people scared by the two bombings. That was the worst thing. We did not know if it was over. How will it end? Is it going to be alright? When you watch on TV or someone tells you, that’s much easier than being in the middle of explosions. I was praying, realizing that I could die today. Death was before us.

Hotel guards led us to a back exit that got us to Prudential Center, where hundreds of people have gathered. On the way, we passed by a glass corridor looking over the scene. The police and paramedics reaction was faster than anyone could imagine. They were helping the injured scattered on the ground, soaked in their blood. Dogs were inspecting everything like bags. We reached the Center, there was a television in one store showing CNN. When an event is being broadcast live on national television and not just local television, that means the event is very big. For the first time I saw what happened. I found another television by one bank showing Boston Ch5 and people sat in front of it. I sat with them. At the Center, the police would frequently give instructions for people to leave or stay. As we waited, the bank manager came out to offer that we use the bank phones, WiFi and bathrooms. I felt relatively safe in that place. The police asked us to remain there. After two hours of the explosion, I managed to rent a bicycle and go home.