STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Witnesses to yesterday's Boston Marathon explosions include David Abel. He's a reporter for the Boston Globe. He was at the finish line yesterday afternoon around 3 o'clock; and Mr. Abel, what did you see and feel?
DAVID ABEL: So I was standing right in the center, watching runners come in. I was taking video and all of a sudden, watching the great relief of many runners as they were just about to cross the finish line, I felt the ground shake. I saw a - white from the smoke; and shortly after that, we felt the concussion of the second blast.
INSKEEP: Did you understand immediately what it was?
ABEL: No. It took a few seconds to process, and to understand, what happened. You know, I've described it - sadly - like when the second plane hit the second tower of the World Trade Center. It wasn't quite clear, until the second bomb went off, what exactly happened. But I could see pretty quickly, as the smoke cleared, that there some major damage and devastation.
INSKEEP: You know, as you're talking, I am thinking of some of the video that we have seen of that moment. And there is that moment when people don't seem to quite understand what's going on, and they continue with life as it was. Some of the runners continued. At least one runner was knocked down, got back up, and got himself across the finish line.
ABEL: Yeah. I think - especially runners, you know, they're so focused and after 26 miles, there's a bit of delirium that you probably don't quite understand. I think some people initially thought it could have been akin to celebratory gunfire or cannon fire, to welcome the runners in; it could have been equipment malfunctioning; it could have been a gas explosion. But as soon as the smoke cleared and there was the second blast, everybody knew what happened. And it was really amazing to just see the police officers, marathon volunteers, spectators; strangers helping strangers. It was just a really unbelievable scene.
INSKEEP: I was about to ask if you thought people had panicked. It sounds like you don't think they did.
ABEL: Well, you know, it was a bit of chaos out there. So there were people - clearly - running in every direction. A lot of people running for cover, and also a lot of people running into the scene where the blast had gone off, and immediately helping people; carrying the wounded in their hands, to a medical tent that was set up about 30 to 50 feet away. And it was the most horrific thing I've seen in my life, and I've covered some pretty bad things over the years, as a reporter.
INSKEEP: You describe, in a written account of this, that there was a metal barricade between the runners and the crowd, and people actually tore down that metal barricade in order to get in there and help the wounded.
ABEL: Right. It was pretty intense. So within a minute, once people sort of - I think - recovered from the shock; and time, which kind of felt like it slowed down, in a strange way, suddenly picked up; and as soon as people realized that there were people suffering, they just started ripping down the metal gates and any other barriers separating the helpers and responders from the folks on the sidewalk, which is where the predominant amount of the damage occurred.
INSKEEP: It must also have been a struggle just for people to find their loved ones in this suddenly scrambled crowd.
ABEL: Yeah. Right afterward, I met quite a few people who were searching for friends and family, and people they'd come to cheer on; and there were a lot of distraught people.
INSKEEP: So how'd you get out of there?
ABEL: So I did my best to stay there as long as I could. I was there as a reporter, and I had a video camera; and I was there to document, and to cover the story for the Boston Globe. And so I stayed there and tried to piece together what was happening, like every other reporter. And I was there for as long as I could until police, firefighters and the FBI eventually escorted us out.
INSKEEP: How would you describe the mood of people that you talked with? Were they just absorbing this? Were they angry? Is there a word you can put to it?
ABEL: Yeah, I think there is a range of emotions. And I can speak for myself, from my own experience being so close to the blast. At first, it was trying to figure out what just happened; to, oh, my God, I cannot believe that happened; to, I am so mad about what happened; to, I really, really hope that these people are going to live.
INSKEEP: David Abel, of the Boston Globe. Thanks very much.
ABEL: Thank you.
INSKEEP: He was a witness to yesterday's explosions at the Boston Marathon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.