For Dana Evernden, 23, Monday's Boston Marathon was supposed to be a chance to take a long lunch break with coworkers and cheer on a few friends.
Shortly before the first bomb went off at the marathon's finish line that afternoon, Evernden stopped to congratulate her athletic trainer, who'd just finished the race, before heading to the corner of Fairfield Street and Beacon Street, about a block away from the explosion.
"The first bomb, no one really knew what happened," she told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. "It was kind of a low boom, and it just sounded like a battle reenactment or something. And then the second bomb explosion was a lot closer, and there was a mushroom cloud. My feet were rooted to the ground -- I guess that's my instinct -- but the person I was with grabbed my hand and we ran toward the esplanade."
"It didn't seem very safe to go anywhere," she continued. "Our office was in the same direction as where it happened, so we didn't want to get very close to any of the buildings. We wanted to be away from the city. Everyone seemed to have the same reaction in the city: They were running, yelling. We stopped at the river just to catch our breath and sit down for a second. Our legs were shaking, and a group of girls next to us were crying hysterically. We couldn't take any more of that, so we kept on moving ... I'm still shaking every once in awhile."
"Everyone's had different sort of reactions," she said. "I don't know anyone else that was as close I as was, so I feel like I've had a totally different experience from everyone else. It's one thing to hear about it, but it's another thing to run from it."
She and her coworkers returned to the office of the energy efficiency company where they work. "Everyone knew we were at the races and they looked like they saw a ghost when they saw us walk in," she recalled. "We couldn't concentrate on work at that point, so we walked home, because the trains weren't working."
As Evernden walked, she said, she kept stumbling upon acts of kindness: an apartment building offering phone chargers, girls handing out beverages, people at a barbecue passing out hot dogs and hamburgers to strangers.
Later, she got a Facebook message from the trainer she'd chatted with, telling her he'd been headed toward the finish line when she stopped him to say hello, just before the explosions hit. "You saved my life," he wrote.
Read Evernden's entire account of her Monday experience below:
So both the media and the memory skew the reality, so I figured I'd give my own account before I forget all of it.
About five hours ago, myself and my two interns (Micaela and Eric) met up at the Park Street T stop before walking over to the marathon route for an extended lunch break. We headed down Beacon Street for a while, admiring the real estate. We hopped a few streets over to Newbury Street, where we stopped for Ben & Jerry's.
After battling with the crowd for a couple blocks, we cut over to Marlborough Street for a bit, before the interns both exclaimed, "Let's just cut over to Beacon. We're already at Prudential!" We walked down Fairfield Street and stood in a spot with a clear view in front of Fidelity Bank. We were there about 40 minutes before my roommate Ashley would be running by, and one of the interns said that he would head back to the office shortly before. After standing in one spot for about 20 minutes, one of the interns noted sarcastically that he didn't want to hear the same people cheer all afternoon, so we moved closer to the finish line. On the way to our next standing spot, I put a letter in a mailbox. That letter will definitely not get to its destination by Thursday.
Shortly after standing in that spot, we heard a low boom and saw a puff of smoke come from a building about a block away on the same side of the street we were on. The sound was so quiet that it seemed like it was fireworks or a battle reenactment. The second explosion came about five seconds after, and this one involved a puff of smoke mushrooming to four times the size of the first one. I later found out that this "bigger" explosion was actually closer, and in fact buildings away from where we were standing.
There was fire in the explosion and people started screaming. My feet were glued to the ground, but luckily Micaela grabbed my hand and we ran down Fairfield Street. She yelled, "Where's Eric?" and we saw him a block in front of us. We ran another block and then slowed down, all looking at our phones. Micaela got ahold of her family in Chile and through tears, told her parents that she was alright. Eric also got on the phone. Fearing for our safety, I waited until we got to the esplanade before I spoke to my mom, who had no idea what was going on. It was the weirdest feeling to pass people on the street that didn't know what was going on, cars driving on Storrow Drive cursing the traffic. I was also thinking of everyone coming to the finish line to see Ashley run, hoping they were safe. I also was in disbelief that the people that passed me by moments earlier ran right into the explosion. I was curious as to what the news was saying and couldn't wait to look it up. I got a call from my boss from Colorado, who was only calling to deliver the message that he would be offline for a few hours, but instead was berated with all of the news of the event. He understood our pleas that we had no mental capacity for the work we had left for the day.
The esplanade was packed with people. Before we got there, we wondered where should we go. Should we head home? To work? We decided on work, and I thought this was because we wanted to let our coworkers know that we were safe. We walked to the bridge to get back onto Beacon Street and walked through the park. It was the thickest silence I've ever experienced, and it was clear that no one wanted to talk or hear each other talk. With what little we did say to each other we tried to figure out what happened. From our viewpoint, the explosion looked so small that it seemed like an equipment malfunction rather than a planned attack.
After making our way through a crowded Downtown Crossing, seeing 101 Federal Street felt like coming home. When we got back, everyone in our section of the office gave us a look like they had seen a ghost. All eyes were on us. They all knew we were there [at the race] as we announced it as we left the office. They had seen the news and one of our coworkers ran out of his office saying, "I was there 15 minutes before it happened." As soon as I turned my computer back on, I realized I wasn't ready to absorb any information, whether it be about the news or work. I closed out my Outlook email and looked at The Huffington Post, which I read every day during the workday for bits of news. Seeing "BREAKING NEWS: BOSTON EXPLOSION" as the top headline brought back all the memories of being right there an hour ago. I was glued to the website during the Newtown massacre, but couldn't bear to relive such an awful moment I had experienced first-hand.
After finishing what work we had to complete, we all walked off towards South Station in search for a cab for Micaela. She said, "Well, we bonded over that," or something along those lines, as we hugged and parted. It was true; it seemed as if the three of us truly felt connected after living through that terrible moment. Eric and I made our way back through the Common, this time walking down Comm Ave to find out what we could see. We walked by a group of paramedics debriefing about the event -- true heroes. At every corner, we tried to figure out where we were in relation to the explosion. Since then, with the help of Google Maps, I have figured out we were a block away.
We made our way to Beacon Street as we found more and more roads blocked off. The kindness we passed by was something to be admired. We first passed an apartment that was offering several types of phone chargers to the public. Shortly afterward, we passed by a few girls simply handing out water and tea, and there were a few cookouts with burgers and hot dogs. Eric and I parted ways at Kenmore. I was alone with my thoughts for a few blocks, until I heard, "Hey, Dana Evernden!" from a childhood friend, Ben Tobin. We talked about the mayhem for awhile, then moved onto lighthearted topics. I arrived home to a living room filled with family and friends. Thank goodness everyone was alright. One of our friends was volunteering at the finish line of the marathon, and another was working at the Lenox [Hotel] when it happened, but they were both safe. Too close not to count on a miracle.
The weirdest part is seeing videography of the explosion that was taken from a different angle from what I saw with my own eyes. The "what if" list becomes a lot smaller when you're right there, and it's one thing to hear about it, but it's another to run from it before the sirens start blaring. My mom got a call before the sirens started up.
My heart goes out to the 27,000+ runners and the victims. It's one thing to be there, but it's quite another thing to spend months training toward such an event that ended in such tragedy. I am beyond proud of my roommate, Ashley Souza, and I can't imagine the disappointment she experienced yesterday at mile 25.5.
The above account has been edited for length and clarity.
HuffPost Readers: If you or anyone you know is in Boston, we want to hear from you about what you heard or saw Monday. We're also interested in any acts of heroism or compassion you've witnessed in your community since. Send your stories, eyewitness accounts, photos, videos, and anything else you want to share here. Include a phone number if you'd like to be interviewed. Let us know if you want to remain anonymous.
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