A Burnaby resident and SFU psychology professor is alive and well but a bit shaken, after a close call at Monday's Boston Marathon.
Rachel Fouladi was running in the race, nearing the finish line, when she heard the first of two blasts that killed three people and injured an estimated 170.
"When I heard the first one, my reaction was: this is not good," she recalled. When the second blast went off, just 300 metres ahead, she knew something was very wrong.
"One second faster, I would have been running into the melee," she said. "I was very close. When the second blast took place, I was roughly 300 metres from the second blast."
Fouladi described the scene before her. Smoke had dissipated into a haze, and she could smell something like fireworks - some kind of incendiary device.
"That's when I knew this was something planned by somebody, some kind of bomb," she said. "We were all stopped, and other people had stopped behind us. There was not a crush of people. The main centre of the street was clear. Runners were off to the side of the road. People were trying to figure out what had gone on."
A SWAT car drove by, and about 10 or 12 armed authorities walked by in formation, very quickly, towards the blast.
"This is all happening within a couple of minutes," Fouladi said. About seven or eight police on bicycles came swooping down. People with cellphones were calling their families, letting them know they were OK. This was Fouladi's first time in Boston, and she was travelling alone and didn't have her cellphone during the run. Fouladi borrowed a phone to let her sister and mother know she was OK, neither having heard news of the bombing yet.
Fouladi then waited with a group of runners.
"After several minutes, it was quite clear we weren't going to be able to finish," she said. They were sent backwards.
Fouladi said she felt sadness and anger that someone would deliberately disrupt an event that's supposed to bring people together to promote wellbeing.
"Also knowing that I literally missed being one of the victims by a few minutes," she said. "By seconds, by minutes, my family has been spared a major trauma."
As for Fouladi, she said she is functioning but still dealing with the impact of the blasts and the instinctive fight or flight response.
"I am sort of in fight mode. I am in survival mode. I am trying to lead my day-to-day life and . the emotions that will get in the way of that, when I permit that to take place and take periods of reflections - that's when I get extremely sad. Then it's hard to do what needs to be done."
Speaking as a psychologist on the impact an event like this can have on the public, Fouladi said that people are going to be extremely careful and worried about their safety.
"They are going to be more careful in their day-to-day activities, regarding their own safety and the safety of their loved ones," she added.
Closer to home, participants in the annual Vancouver Sun Run have surpassed 46,000 - more than last year's total. Fouladi said people may minimize the deleterious impact of the bombing and do more activities, like public marathons, to show the perpetrator they are not scared.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. The bombs appear to have been fashioned out of old pressure cookers, packed with nails and shrapnel, and left in bags on the ground.
Nancy Stagg, marketing coordinator at the Burnaby Village Museum, was also at the Boston Marathon with her husband.
"Yesterday will be unforgettable," she said in an email. "We were just meeting up (1.5 blocks down the road) when the bombs went off. We could see the smoke but weren't sure exactly what was going on. It was like everyone was on pause then all at (once) - we need to get the hell out of here! Everyone, all thousands and thousands of us."
- With files from the Times Colonist and Vancouver Sun.
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