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Reporter's notebook: Boston Marathon bombing 'feels like yesterday'

Here are reflections 10 years after the Boston Marathon bombing, as runners from around the world gather for the 2023 race.
Posted at 3:28 PM, Apr 14, 2023

Scripps News' National Correspondent Chris Conte shares his reflections 10 years after crossing the 117th Boston Marathon finish, as bombs exploded.

It still feels like yesterday. I can see the crowds, feel the medal being placed over my neck by a volunteer. A picturesque New England spring day, punctuated by blue skies and, eventually, a tragedy that would rock the nation and send shock waves through Boston, Massachusetts. 

On April 15, 2013, I was one of 30,000 runners competing in the Boston Marathon. I had just crossed the finish line when the first explosion went off. To this day, the sound of a dumpster closing still rattles my nerves a bit. It's the kind of post-traumatic stress countless other runners and spectators who were there live with — some to more severe degrees than others. 

I was among the fortunate; No injuries to speak of. The moments that followed the second bomb going off were nothing short of pure chaos: Thousands of people trying to find their way out of the danger zone; Cell phone service was non-existent; Police and law enforcement were everywhere; The constant sound of sirens reverberated across the city.

The beauty of that marathon Monday, shattered in seconds. 

Many of the 30,000 runners that year had just crossed the finish line when the bombs went off. Thousands of others were stopped along the course as officials quickly shut down the race once it became clear a terrorist attack had occurred. 

Four people were killed in the terrorist attacks: Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, Martin Richard and MIT Police Officer Sean Collier who died during a shootout with the bombers. An estimated 281 people were injured, most of them spectators, including Jacqui Webb and her husband Paul. Both were standing just feet away when the second bomb exploded on Boylston Street in Boston. 

Medical workers aid injured people following an explosion at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon in Boston.

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"I remember one of our friends yelling, 'That was a bomb! That was a bomb! That was a bomb!' It made sense, but you just didn't think it would happen in Boston," Webb told me while sitting in a park near Boston just a few days shy of the ten year anniversary. 

Webb, now 35, was hit by shrapnel from the bombs. The heat from the explosions near melted the rings she was wearing to her fingers. In the blur of the chaotic moments after the blasts occurred, she recalls realizing that her husband Paul had lost his leg. 

"Ten years later — it's just so crazy because some memories are so vivid. I can tell you what I had for breakfast that day. There was a Boston Police officer walking toward me and the look on his face was something I'll never forget, I begged him to help me," Webb said. 

She was eventually rushed to Tufts Medical Center and reunited with her husband. The two still live in the Boston area. In the years since the bombing, they've gone back to the finish line, but not to the race itself. 

"I think it's something that a lot of people have done, but not us," Webb said. 

Like so many who were touched by the tragedy, Webb and her husband have used those moments of pain and turned them into hope. The couple founded The Webb Norden Foundation, which helps support children and young adults affected by trauma. A number of runners in the 2023 Boston Marathon are raising money for the foundation. 

Medical workers aid injured people at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon in Boston

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"I think what gets us through, each and every day, is that we were overcome and overwhelmed by the support. It really made us compelled to give back," Webb said. "I want [people] to think about the kindness, support and generosity that came out of that time."

Kindness that, these days, has taken on a certain shade of yellow. In 2013, after the bombing, Diane Valle helped start Marathon Daffodils.

The first year after the bombing, the non-profit planted 100,000 daffodils along the marathon route. Ten years later, Valle and her volunteers continue to pass the flowers out around the city in the days leading up to the race.

"It's a symbol of hope and remembering," Valle said. "And a way of honoring those who came to the injured and a reminder that life is fleeting and we're here together."

As these bulbs blossom, they are bringing brightness to runners from around the world, converging on Boston for the 2023 running of the race.

Among them is Tiffany Spearman. She was Martin Richard's former track coach. The nine-year-old was killed in the bombing. Spearman is running the 2023 Marathon for the MR8 Fund, in Martin's memory. 

"Every run, I feel like he's with me in spirit. Of course, he'll be there in my heart," Spearman said. 

Like the 30,000 runners who compete in the race, time here continues to move forward, even on this anniversary.