Spencer West was in his hotel room at the Lenox Hotel, not far from the Boston Marathon finish line, when he heard two blasts--one much louder than the other.
The 41-year-old athlete from Davie said instantly, he knew what he'd heard. When he looked out his third-floor window, West encountered the chaotic scene after a pair of bombs detonated near the finish of one of the world's most well-known road races, killing at least three and injuring more than 100 people.
"I've never heard an explosion before, but I knew right away what it was," said West, who had just completed his fifth Boston Marathon. "People were panicking. They evacuated our hotel. But as far as first responders, they were there instantly. Volunteers were jumping scaffolding to go and help."
West was one of 503 runners from Florida who started the race Monday morning in near-perfect weather conditions. Of those, 393 finished before the blasts marred what should have been a day of celebration.
In South Florida, members of the running community scrambled to reach to reach friends and family. Cell phone service in Boston was spotty throughout the afternoon, but Cynthia Raes-Barnard, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Road Runners Club, said she was able to speak to Liz Hadfield, one of several local runners in the event.
Hadfield, a 38-year-old New Zealand native, crossed the finish line at the 3:47 mark, minutes before the blasts, which according to reports, occurred as the finish line clock read 4:09.
"She said, 'I have to hang up.' She couldn't talk," Raes-Barnard said. "It's horrible, terrible to think this could happen."
Meanwhile, Sergio Torres, 49, of Parkland, had already finished and was on the shuttle to the airport when he spoke to his wife in South Florida and learned what was happening.
"My phone was going crazy, [my] wife and children calling, but I had no idea," he said. "It's a tragedy."
Michael Giacobbe, manager at Runner's Depot in Davie, struggled to reach members of the store's racing team, 10 of whom were in Boston, along with the store's owners.
"Everybody is all right in our immediate group," he said. "Cops are taking away cell phones to keep the cell tower clear."
For Alice Henley, the entire experience was jarring.
The runner was one of South Florida's top performers Monday with a time of 2:46. She finished under her goal of three hours, but felt cold after crossing the finish line and hustled away from downtown with her mother.
The 24-year-old was back at her hotel when she learned of the blast.
"I had friends still running and I was going to hang around, but I wasn't feeling so well and I wanted to get out of there," said Henley, who wore a gift from a friend, a necklace that read 'Grateful' on Monday. "I think what [bothers] me is that there's nothing more freeing in the world than running. People here are so passionate about life and someone wanted to affect that. These are people that were happy and active and there were losses of limbs. It seems so deliberate. What more way to affect an athlete?"
In the blast's immediate aftermath, Henley said what happened in Boston might give her pause about running another major event. She worries the Olympic marathon, a race she aspires to run, could be a target.
But West, a native Bostonian, said he won't be deterred.
"I don't know what they could do, procedurally," he said. "The good news is that there are police up and down the 26 miles. You couldn't ask for a bigger police presence. I don't know what you can do, but I'm not going to let it stop me from running."
Staff writers Linda Trischitta and Mike Clary contributed to this report. ___
04/19/2013 2:30 AM EDT
GLOBE: Bombing Suspect In Custody, Another Remains On The Loose
One marathon suspect has been captured, according to an official with knowledge of the investigation.
Another remains on the loose in Watertown after a firefight with police. Authorities have established a 20-block perimeter as they search for him.
Read more here.
04/19/2013 12:44 AM EDT
Unconfirmed Photo Of Suspect 2 In Boston Marathon Bombing Emerges On Facebook
Just hours after the FBI released the first photos of suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, a new photo of Suspect 2 may have emerged.
David Green, 49, of Jacksonville, Fla., had just completed his first Boston Marathon, when he snapped a picture with his iPhone 4S, taken at 2:50, just after the two blasts ripped through the finish line area, killing three people and injuring more than 180 others.
The FBI has not publicly confirmed this photo as Suspect 2, but Green told the Huffington Post that an agent told him, "this is probably the best we have right now."
The man who appears to be Suspect 2 is wearing a white hat with a "3" on the side as seen in the publicly-released photos.
Read more here.
04/18/2013 10:19 PM EDT
Boston Bombing Victim in Iconic Photo Helped Identify Attackers: Bloomberg
Minutes before the bombs blew up in Boston, Jeff Bauman looked into the eyes of the man who tried to kill him.
Just before 3 p.m. on April 15, Bauman was waiting among the crowd for his girlfriend to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon. A man wearing a cap, sunglasses and a black jacket over a hooded sweatshirt looked at Jeff, 27, and dropped a bag at his feet, his brother, Chris Bauman, said in an interview.
Read more here.
04/18/2013 9:04 PM EDT
Federal Law Enforcement Says Suspects Stayed To Watch Carnage: CNN Reports
04/18/2013 7:26 PM EDT
Right Wing Journalist Goes Ballistic During Press Conference
BOSTON -- Moments after the FBI revealed images of two baseball cap-wearing men wanted for questioning about the Boston bombings, the press conference descended into a sideshow.
A journalist from a far-right wing website called Info Wars shouted out a question accusing the government of carrying out the attack that killed three, and maimed or injured 170 others.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard Deslauriers ignored the allegation of a government conspiracy from reporter Daniel Bidondi, but the Alex Jones protege did not stop hollering.
"The FBI lies," Bidondi said. "We've got the proof," he said accusing the government of a "false flag" attack in which it staged the blasts and made them appear like the work of terrorists.
Bidondi found himself at the center of an media scrum with cameras and microphones pointed at his face after law enforcement officials left the podium in the Sheraton hotel.
Another reporter ridiculed Bidondi from across the room, telling him to shut up and calling him an asshole.
The excitement quickly dissipated as reporters returned to delivering the news about the official images of the suspects.
Bidondi has been a presence at other press conferences this week related to the bombing investigation.
--Michael McLaughlin / HuffPost Crime
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Bidondi's last name. We regret the error.
04/18/2013 7:00 PM EDT
Is The Suspect's Hat A Clue?
04/18/2013 6:46 PM EDT
Facial Recognition Expert Reacts To FBI Photos
Dr. Ralph Gross, a facial recognition expert at Carnegie Mellon University, said the FBI photos of two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing are likely too grainy to be matched against a driver's license database or Facebook. But he thinks they may be just good enough for someone who knows the individuals to identify them.
"The resolution isn't particularly good. The one that's kind of best is unfortunately a side view -- and in general the face recognition software works best with frontal view," he said.
Research has consistently found, however, that people can spot people they know even in grainy, off-center photographs.
"Humans are actually very good at recognizing people that they are familiar with," Gross said. "Somebody that might know these guys, or might know the way they dress, might certainly be able to recognize them."
The FBI said the men should be considered armed and dangerous, and urged tipsters to call 1-800-CALL-FBI if they believe they have information that could lead to an arrest.
04/18/2013 6:21 PM EDT
Daily News Doctored Photo
The New York Daily News reportedly doctored its front page photograph of the Boston bombings (see update below).
WARNING: LINK GOES TO GRAPHIC PHOTO
04/18/2013 5:37 PM EDT
Hi-Res Image Of People Of Interest
04/18/2013 5:30 PM EDT
FBI Website Down
CNN reports that, because of a flood of traffic, the FBI's site is temporarily down.