Eyewitness recounts Boston bombings
BOSTON – A Fairfield photographer witnessed the bombings at the Boston Marathon Monday that left three dead and more than 180 injured.
Jim Davis, vice president of the Fairfield-based company Marathon Foto, was in the crowd snapping photographs of the runners as they approached the finish line. He was about 50 feet from one of the blasts.
“I felt it,” he said. “My ears are still ringing from it.”
Pieces of debris fell on Davis but he was not injured in the explosion. He said a large number of spectators were between him and the blast.
Davis saw in news reports the second blast occurred 12 seconds after the first, about 100 yards away. He said it felt much longer than 12 seconds at the time. Davis said he couldn’t figure out what the sound of the first explosion was. However, after he heard the second explosion, he knew something had gone terribly wrong and he picked up his camera and left the scene.
“I kept taking photos after the first explosion, but after the second one I picked up my stuff,” he said. “We thought, ‘Who knows when the next one is coming?’ I think most spectators didn’t know what to make of it. Once we heard the second one, all the spectators began to leave.”
Davis quickly rounded up his camera crew and made sure every member was accounted for. He said five members of the crew are current Fairfield residents and a few more have lived in Fairfield recently. Some of them were positioned on a bridge built over the street specifically for taking photos of the marathon. He helped them pack their equipment and then they left.
As Davis was leaving the scene, he could see scores of people had been severely injured by the blasts.
“I never thought I would see that in my life and I certainly never wanted to,” he said.
A medical tent was located about a block away from the first explosion.
“Within a minute or two, hundreds of doctors were running from the medical tent carrying gurneys and EMT equipment to treat the injured,” Davis said. “It was amazing how fast the emergency personnel responded. In terms of helping people after the fact, they couldn’t have been any more prepared.”
Davis said security personnel who were already on the scene before the explosions began working frantically to evacuate spectators and to search for more bombs. Bomb-sniffing dogs that were positioned throughout the course rushed to the scene.
“Everybody on the bomb squad was there,” he said. “The logistics people were clearing the whole area.”
Davis said the explosions occurred in a location swamped with security personnel. Boston police officers are easy to identify because they wear fluorescent yellow vests. He could see police lining both sides of the street for blocks leading up to the finish line. Homeland Security is there, too, and has a headquarters near the finish line.
“That whole area is highly secure,” Davis said. “I’m sure the authorities will wonder, ‘How did they get through?’ As a lay person, the only way you could have made the area more secure is with no spectators.”
Davis said it’s simply impossible to make the area completely secure considering the number of people who attend the event.
“Tens of thousands of people come to this,” he said. “They bring in coolers, snacks and they have a good time.”
Davis said the crowd is several people deep along the route from start to finish.
Since Davis and his team of photographers need to be especially close to the action to get good shots, they need special police clearance. He said a snow fence lines the road for blocks so spectators can’t get into the roadway.
“I personally know the people who are in charge of security,” he said. “They have to give our photographers permission to be inside the snow fence. We are all introduced to the police every year we photograph.”
Davis said the sidewalks are so packed for the last mile of the race that they are nearly impassable. He said it would be impossible to request background checks for the thousands of people there.
Davis has photographed marathons for 36 years. He has photographed 31 Boston Marathons, all without incident until this one.
“You realize something like this can happen anywhere, at any football game, any sporting event, any parade or any Black Friday shopping spree,” he said. “All the security in the world is not full proof against an attack. Having said that, I thought it was unlikely anything would happen because it was so secure.”
Davis said he returned from Boston to console his wife and daughter and ensure them he was all right. Some of the photographers in his crew went straight from Boston to London to photograph the London Marathon, which is Sunday. He said it was hard for his team members to get on that plane because they were so shaken up about what they had witnessed.