Three or four minutes after Pam Tymchak of East Amherst completed the Boston Marathon, as she was swept along in a sea of fellow runners away from the finish line and toward the buses that held her bag, she heard the first of two loud blasts.
As gray smoke billowed from the scene of the explosions, and police began rushing to help the scores of wounded, she shuddered to consider how narrowly she had escaped injury.
“All I could think of was if I had stopped to walk at one more water stop, I would have been right there,” Tymchak, 51, a homemaker and mother of two who has run seven marathons, said in an interview. “It was way too close for comfort.”
Tymchak was one of about 70 area runners who took part in the Boston Marathon, part of a group of 23,000 runners and thousands of additional race volunteers, supporters and spectators who saw the event shattered by a pair of bomb blasts that killed three and wounded dozens more.
It’s not believed anyone from this area was injured, though some Buffalonians were within several hundred feet of the finish line area when the blasts went off. They were all shaken by the horror of the attack on a race that binds the running community and the City of Boston.
“Boston Marathon is the Super Bowl of marathons and such a tradition. So many people each year work hard to achieve the opportunity to run the race. So for this to happen is such a shame and cowardly move by these [bombers],” said Dennis Brinkworth III, 51, a Buffalo restaurateur, who finished 35 minutes before the blasts ripped through the crowds.
The bombs went off about four hours after the marathon began. Kathy Borzynski Reynolds, who had finished about 15 minutes earlier, was walking toward a gathering area to meet a friend when she heard the two explosions about 15 seconds apart.
“As soon as you saw the smoke rising from the ground, you knew something was wrong,” Reynolds, 45 and an occupational therapist from Amherst, said in a phone interview.
Cellphone service was not available in the area around the marathon, so Reynolds had to walk a considerable distance before she could get a signal and let her family know she was OK.
Glenn Kaifas, the owner of the Fitness 360 gym in North Buffalo, was in Boston to coach and support the members of a running program who were taking part in the marathon, and he was waiting for team members in the post-race gathering area.
“We were just around the corner from the blast,” Kaifas said by phone, describing a chaotic and frightening scene. “EMTs and police officers and fire trucks are just zinging all over the place.”
Bob Kaminski, a member of Western New York Finish Line Services, was working security at a VIP tent near the finish line when he heard the explosions.
“We didn’t know what it was. People thought it was a piece of equipment, a generator, that went off,” said Kaminski, who said police evacuated the tent to make room for the injured.
Chris Campbell, an Orchard Park native and senior at Suffolk University in Boston, was on a training run for the school’s baseball team a few blocks from the finishing area for the marathon when he and his teammates saw a large crowd moving toward them.
They didn’t see or hear the blasts, but they soon saw a swarm of ambulances heading toward the bombing scene.
Campbell said he and some friends had gone to the finishing line area last year and hung out for a couple of hours watching the marathon. They would have done the same this year – because classes were canceled for Patriots Day – except their coaches informed them they had to attend an afternoon practice.
“If we didn’t get a text this morning, we would be right there,” Campbell said later Monday.