Washington marathon runner Melissa Shust could only describe the scene in Boston as “chaotic,” after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Shust, who spoke to The Missourian just an hour after the explosions, was sitting in the lobby of the Marriott Copley Place hotel with hundreds of others, who were all on edge, she said.
“Everybody is crying and upset because they can’t find (runners from their group),” she said, adding that one runner from her group was still unaccounted for.
About three hours after the explosion, the group was able to make contact with their missing runner, who was safe.
Shust trained with Fleet Feet, St. Louis, and attended the marathon with seven other members.
Her husband and older son, who lives in New York, were in attendance to root her on. The two were sitting near where the explosion happened and had gotten up “less than a minute” before the explosions, she said.
Shust had just crossed the finish line and ran about 300 additional yards when she heard the explosion.
“I’ve never heard an explosion, but I knew it sounded like one. When I heard the second one I knew it was a bomb,” she said. “People started screaming and running.”
Shust said she witnessed several people in wheelchairs who had been injured.
“Police were yelling at everyone to get back,” she said, adding that the finish line at marathons is generally crowded. “There were 20 to 30 police cars, helicopters, ambulances — we knew it was something really bad,” she said.
Shust has been running marathons for about seven years. She had been training for months for the marathon.
“This was supposed to be a time for celebration, but, obviously, it’s not very celebratory here,” she said.
The group was scheduled to come home Tuesday evening. Shust was worried that they may not be able to leave, as the hotel where she was staying, The Millennium Bostonian, was closed. In fact, almost everything was closed, she said.
At about 7:30 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday, however, Shust was able to get back into the hotel where she was staying.
No taxis were available, so the group walked approximately one mile to the hotel.
“It was eerie. We’re used to seeing a lot of people on the streets, but there were very few people on the streets except SWAT teams, the National Guard — and everyone had guns. It was surreal,” she said.
Officials had encouraged people to stay inside, which Shust said most people were doing.
“We won’t go out unless we absolutely have to,” she said, adding that her flight was to leave Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. Eastern Time. It is scheduled to arrive in St. Louis at about 7:30 p.m. Central Time. No earlier flights were available.
“Hopefully (the group gets) home safely,” she said, as she heard reports that the hotel she was hunkered in was being evacuated.
The Associated Press has reported that three people were killed and at least 176 were injured in the explosions.